Monaco is making artificial 3D printed reefs to help preserve coral populations

monaco 3d printed coral reef replacement
Thanks to the disastrous effects of climate change, planet Earth is currently in the middle of the biggest coral die-off in known history, leaving many of the reef’s inhabitants without a place to call home. A surprising solution to this problem may be 3D printing, which is being used to create artificial coral reefs that provide a suitable ecosystem for these underwater animals. One significant reef rejuvenation project is taking place in Monaco, where six 3D printed coral reef structures are being assembled and submerged in the waters of the Larvotto reserve.

The project was spearheaded by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which contracted with Dutch maritime services company Boskalis for the project. Boskalis was selected for the endeavor because it uses a superior dolomite sand material in the creation of its artificial reefs. Previous reef projects have used concrete reef structures to create new habitats, but these areas were colonized very slowly by the indigenous ocean creatures — presumably because they weren’t realistic enough.

The Netherlands-based Boskalis, along with the Monaco’s Comers laboratory and the AMPN (Association Monégasque de Protection de la Nature), is designing and 3D printing six artificial reef structures. Each one takes about 13 hours to print and uses a naturally occurring dolomite sand held together with a special adhesive. Each reef measures 1.2 x 2 meters and weighs 2.5 tons. The reefs will be submerged 27 meters into the waters off the shore of Monaco starting in the spring of 2016. The first printed reef was delivered recently to Prince Albert II of Monaco in a ceremony held at the city’s local Oceanographic Museum.

These structures will be submerged in the Larvotto preserve alongside existing coral reef structures,  allowing scientists to study the ecological development of an artificial sand reef and compare it to a nearby natural reef. The placement also provides the opportunity to closely monitor the adoption of this sand-based reef and compare it to the development of previously studied concrete reefs. The continuous monitoring of this new habitat is expected to start next spring and will last at least two years.

Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.
Emerging Tech

Happy birthday, Hubble! Telescope celebrates with image of Southern Crab Nebula

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit, where it has remained for nearly three decades collecting information about deep space. To celebrate its birthday, Hubble imaged the beautiful Southern Crab Nebula.
Emerging Tech

Star gives off superflare equal to 80 billion megatonnes of TNT. That’s a lot

A tiny star the size of Jupiter has been observed giving off a massive superflare 10 times more powerful than any flare from our Sun. The findings are raising questions about how much energy small stars can hold.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…