Scanning electron microscope image of the microalgal colonies in the hybrid living biopolymers
Credit: Daniel Wangpraseurt
Researchers have designed bionic 3D-printed corals that could help energy production and coral reef research.
We hope that our technique will be scalable so it can ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for coral reef death
Researchers from Cambridge University and University of California San Diego have 3D printed coral-inspired structures that are capable of growing dense populations of microscopic algae. Their results, reported in the journal Nature Communications, open the door to new bio-inspired materials and their applications for coral conservation.
In the ocean, corals and algae have an intricate symbiotic relationship. The coral provides a host for the algae, while the algae produce sugars to the coral through photosynthesis. This relationship is responsible for one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth, the coral reef.
“Corals are highly efficient at collecting and using light,” said first author Dr Daniel Wangpraseurt, a Marie Curie Fellow from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry. “In our lab, we’re looking for methods to copy and mimic these strategies from nature for commercial applications.”
Wangpraseurt and his colleagues 3D printed coral structures and used them as incubators for algae growth. They tested various types of microalgae and found growth rates were 100x higher than in standard liquid growth mediums.
To create the intricate structures of natural corals, the researchers used a rapid 3D bioprinting technique capable of reproducing detailed structures that mimic the complex designs and functions of living tissues. This method can print structures with micrometer-scale resolution in just minutes.
This is critical for replicating structures with live cells, said co-senior author Professor Shaochen Chen, from UC San Diego. “Most of these cells will die if we were to use traditional extrusion-based or inkjet processes because these methods take hours. It would be like keeping a fish out of the water; the cells that we work with won’t survive if kept too long out of their culture media. Our process is high throughput and offers really fast printing speeds, so it’s compatible with human cells, animal cells, and even algae cells in this case,” he said.
The coral-inspired structures were highly efficient at redistributing light, just like natural corals. Only biocompatible materials were used to fabricate the 3D printed bionic corals.
“We developed an artificial coral tissue and skeleton with a combination of polymer gels and hydrogels doped with cellulose nanomaterials to mimic the optical properties of living corals,” said co-senior author Dr Silvia Vignolini, also from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry. “Cellulose is an abundant biopolymer; it is excellent at scattering light and we used it to optimise delivery of light into photosynthetic algae.”
The team used an optical analogue to ultrasound, called optical coherence tomography, to scan living corals and utilise the models for their 3D printed designs. The custom-made 3D bioprinter uses light to print coral micro-scale structures in seconds. The printed coral copies natural coral structures and light-harvesting properties, creating an artificial host-microenvironment for the living microalgae.
“By copying the host microhabitat, we can also use our 3D bioprinted corals as a model system for the coral-algal symbiosis, which is urgently needed to understand the breakdown of the symbiosis during coral reef decline,” said Wangpraseurt. “There are many different applications for our new technology. We have recently created a company, called mantaz, that uses coral-inspired light-harvesting approaches to cultivate algae for bioproducts in developing countries. We hope that our technique will be scalable so it can have a real impact on the algal biosector and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for coral reef death.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- This coral looks like a beating heart but it's actually in serious troubleon June 14, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Mashable is a global, multi-platform media and entertainment company. Powered by its own proprietary technology, Mashable is the go-to source for tech, digital culture and entertainment content ...
- AntiCAD reveals its latest acoustic panel designs at VDF products fairon June 12, 2020 at 8:48 am
The Köral system is composed of a series of hexagonal- and heptagonal-shaped panels that are combined with 3D-printed joints to create faceted forms. It takes its cues from coral formations ...
- Köral acoustic panels by AntiCAD and TakahashiLim A+Don June 12, 2020 at 6:35 am
The system comprises a series of hexagonal- and heptagonal-shaped panels that are lined with sound-absorbing insulation and combined with 3D printed joints ... on the form of coral, and offers ...
- Freshly printed magnetson June 11, 2020 at 1:42 am
While widely considered a problem inherent to the process, Empa researchers spotted an opportunity – and are now using the effect to create new alloys with novel properties and embed them in ...
- New iPhone 12 release date, price & specs rumourson June 9, 2020 at 10:18 am
Most recently, the leaker Max Weinbach claims to have obtained CAD schematics for the iPhone 12 Max (see image above), from which the YouTube channel EverythingApplePro 3D-printed a sample and ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Resilience - a cli-fi short story by Octavia Cadeon June 23, 2020 at 10:12 am
Climate fiction – or cli-fi – is an emerging genre of literature exploring issues raised by climate change. The best way to win at hide and seek, Elsbeth thought, was not to play. That is, she ...
- This underwater sculpture is helping to restore coral reefs in Thailandon June 22, 2020 at 4:43 pm
Land-based coral farms can help rapidly grow corals. Global Coralition draws on art, science and local communities for its coral reef restoration work. Its projects include a giant sculpture and ...
- Study: Marine-management areas can restore state’s depleted fisherieson June 22, 2020 at 3:19 am
A recent comprehensive study has found Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters need more effective management, and that a diverse, integrated system of marine-management areas can help restore the state’s ...
- One Banana, the Better Banana Co., Presents Corporate Sustainability Reporton June 20, 2020 at 8:32 am
One Banana publishes its 6th Sustainability Report presenting the results of the activities executed that have contributed to the company's success ...
- ‘Coastal road reclamation may harm coral patch at Haji Ali’on June 17, 2020 at 5:04 pm
Co-founder of Coastal Conservation Foundation, Shaunak Modi said the corals ... The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said all coral patches fell outside proposed reclamation zones. “We are ...