Bionic Corals

The mass bleaching and deaths of corals has been a catastrophic result of global climate change, but could you imagine a world where coral prosthetics coexist in the reef to aid the growth of new coral and allow sea life to prosper? Well, as of 2020, researchers at Cambridge University and University of California San Diego have constructed 3D-printed bionic corals shaped to mimic the complex patterns of reef bases. However, it is not just as simple as just 3D-printing an object that looks like a coral. Because corals produce a certain algae to fuel photosynthesis and collect and redirect light, they are highly symbiotic organisms that act as a home to 25% of all sea life (NOAA, 2020), the material they are made of must be able to simulate these aspects. The biomaterial constructed for 3D printing consists of polymer gels and hydrogels that hold cellulose nanomaterials. Cellulose is the molecule that makes up plant walls, and nanomaterials are nano-robots that can enhance photosynthesis, meaning this material is a living gel enhanced with biotics, and when printed, the material is formed into a biohybrid robot. However, while these bionic corals can teach us about the coral-algae symbiosis and how coral facilitates an ecosystem, there are no plans to implement them to aid any coral reefs. 

Wangpraseurt, D., You, S., Azam, F., Jacucci, G., Gaidarenko, O., Hildebrand, M., … Vignolini, S. (2019). “Bionic 3D printed corals“.

Coldewey, D. (2020, April 10). “3D-printed ‘bionic corals’ mimic a reef’s powers of photosynthesis“.


Artificial Life, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Ecological Monitoring, Internet of Things, Pollution