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Architecture and Engineering – Studying Sea Sponge design.

You are likely aware that sea sponges have contributed much to our lives in many important ways. From the time of Ancient Greece, when gladiators used its exquisitely smooth texture and rich lather to prepare for battle, to the present day.

Today we know sea sponges do more for us than the awesome job they’ve been doing in our homes for millennia. These very helpful neighbors are currently in use in the fields of medicine and information and communication technology.

Fortunately for us, once more the sea sponge proves to be exceptionally beneficial to humankind – this time in the fields of architecture and engineering.

The most famous of the glass sponges, the Venus Flower Basket is one of the most beautiful creatures in the world. Its structural design is one of the wonders of nature.

Now people are seriously contemplating a revolution in building design inspired by natural design – like the Venus Flower Basket.

Michael A. Monn, a Ph D student at Brown University has been extensively involved in studying what makes the Venus flower basket glass so flexible and as a result – impressively strong. He has explored the skeleton’s exceptional design in an attempt to simulate their natural design. The knowledge gained by his studies could change how we build much stronger buildings and bridges.

Do Onto Me As I Do Unto You

People have been reaping the countless benefits sea sponges have been willing to share for thousands of years. At times, it seems like there’s hardly anything the world’s longest living species can’t do.

Nevertheless, in order to discover the natural sponges’ full potential, we must make a wholly concerted effort to protect their environment. The sea sponge is the longest living animal species while revealing to us how to revolutionize our greatest innovations.

Do It Better One More Time

Sea sponges have recently become increasingly important in the fields of medicine and information technology. Holding great promise in our attempt to eradicate some of the most life-threatening infections, such as MRSA. There has been evidence that shows the same chemicals within the sponge being effective against cancer cells.

The glass sponge’s skeleton are made up of glass spicules, which promise to make our fiber optics more resistant to breakage as well as much easier to manufacture.

I’m confident that sea sponges are capable of revealing to us far superior methods of using our technology to propel humanity forward.

Change Is Good

What is so intriguing about the glass sponge is its ability to grow its skeleton in such a pattern as to construct a beautiful lattice structure known as a glass house. One of these glass sponges called the Venus Flower Basket is no exception.

It turns out that their structure turns out to be made in such a way as to maximize flexibility and strength. Not only the glass itself which is stronger than our own, but much more flexible as well.

This beautiful glass sponge has revealed her secret to building strong and flexible. As soon as we are able to mirror her design, we will build our infrastructure differently.

Bend But Don’t Brake

The sheer strength of the glass sponges’ glass is associated with its molecular structure. Michael A. Monn, a PhD student at Brown University, has been studying the spicules of the Venus Flower Basket. In particular, he’s looking at those that are responsible for keeping the sponge attached to the soft sea floor.

He noticed that at the microscopical level the glass in these spicules had a specific arrangement. Another example would be a clams shell – it’s strength depends upon the arrangement of its shell on the microscopic level.

In the case of the Venus flower basket, the spicules microscopic structure is set up in concentric layers which are very similar to three rings (Australian Geographic).

It is believed, by this investigator, that this specific mechanical design afford these particular spicules to bend further before breaking. This flexibility allows the sponge to remain fixed to the sea floor more strongly.

The spicules from this particular glass sponge were compared to those of other sea sponges with the same chemical composition but without any layers. It was discovered that the spicules belonging to the Venus flower basket were able to bend around 2.4 times farther than those of other sea sponges which lack the layers.

If we can someday build structures with the flexibility of the glass found in the Venus flower basket, the possibilities are astounding. Imagine buildings and bridges that can withstand the force of a powerful earthquake, for example. Perhaps we will be able to dive deeper than we do today and explore the until now unexplored depths of our oceans.

Imagine lighter and stronger rockets and spacecrafts that could require only a fraction of the fuel. Getting to Mars could take significantly less time, making a return trip to earth more likely

The Glass House

Sea sponges are spectacular animals in their own right. They have ensured their survival for over 600 million years; that’s longer than any other species on earth.

They have also been an integral part of human history. From exquisite baths since ancient times to present day contributions in medicine and much promise in the information and communication technology field, sea sponges continue to make their mark on humanity’s journey.

A certain kind of glass sponge known as the Venus Flower Basket is once again showing promise in showing us how we can build stronger structures by making them more flexible.

The secret to the strength of these sponges’ glass spicules are buried deep in its microscopic architecture. It is designed in such a fashion that it forms concentric layers shaped like three rings. These layers are what give the glass the greater flexibility it needs to resist being broken as easily as if it contained only one layer.

We are students of nature. There’s so much to learn from that which has been designing countless structures since the beginning of time. It will be very wise for us to do all we can to protect nature and her yet undiscovered secrets.

 

 

What do you think about the glass sponge’s impressive structural strength?

Do you think we will see a shift in how we design the structures we currently build?

Are you aware of any designs that have been created by nature which are being used by humans?

 

Leave me a comment below,

 

 

Thank you for your visit,

 

 

Jose

 

JOSE CRUZ

8 Comments

  1. Hello Cruz, 

    Thank you so much for such an informative article. I did not have much knowledge about sea horses before reading your post.  Trust me,  your writing made me more interested about sea sponges. After reading your article,  i came to know the architectural structure,  life,  habitat,  etc of sea sponges. To be honest,  I  did not know that sea sponges are the oldest species in the earth. So,  it is clear that I really enjoyed reading your article. 

    Thanks again for the writing.  🙂 

    Radeet

    • Hello Zihad, I’m very pleased that you found my article intellectually stimulating. Most people, unfortunately, do not realize the wonder that these creatures are. Yes, they are the first and oldest animals on earth. They have not only survived but also thrived. Their structure ( especially the glass sponge ) is phenomenal. We are learning (architecture and engineering) that their pattern results in a structure that is lighter and stronger than anything humans have built to this day.

      I really appreciate your comment – take good care.

      Jose

  2. Wow, I never thought sea sponges can spark some inspiration which we can use for engineering innovation. Seems like Mother Nature has already provided us with the necessary technology to move us forward, we just have to go out and harness it. Anyway, I look forward to plenty of applications of the Venus Flower Basket in our structures some time in the future.

    I’m wondering, are we going to actually extract the Venus flower basket sponges in the sea then use it? Or are we just taking inspiration from their marvelous structure and preserve them?

    • Hello Dominic, sea sponges are beginning to show us that they have a lot more to offer humanity than those exquisite baths. The fields of Architecture and engineering are taking notice of their magnificent structure; which turns out is much stronger and lighter than any of ours. Once we can duplicate their physical pattern, the sky is the limit – from building that could withstand natural disasters, like earthquakes, to lighter and stronger vehicles to take us farther into space with less fuel needed. 

      I appreciate your comment, 

      Take good care, 

      Jose

  3. This review is very educating. I enjoy reading topics related to sponge because it revealed beauty of the nature.

    This is related to my seminar topic back then in the college. Glass sponge belongs to phylum porifera and it is also known to has spicule. We can’t call it animal but rather fungus. It is a natural water filter.
    A layman may be thinking if glass sponge is formed from maybe a long term broken glass but that’s not it. The skeleton of a glass sponge is compose of silica which is thesame as the compound that forms glass. Maybe because they inhabit deep sea water. Their silica component skeleton can protect them against predators.
    Sponge generally has many amazing economic important.

    • Hello Stella, I am glad you found the post intellectually stimulating. In fact, glass sponges (like all other sponges) are in fact animals. The fungus, actually, is neither a plant nor an animal. Sponges ,on the other hand, are the first multi-cellular organism to appear on earth. Scientists strongly believe that they are the ancestors to all animals. 

      Yes, their skeletons are, incredibly, made of the same material found in glass – hence the name glass sponge. This is the reason why they are now being studied by those in the fields of architecture and engineering. 

      Their spicules, which form beautiful structures called a glass house, are what they use for protection as well as support. Imagine trying to chew on a cactus and trying to swallow it. Well, that is what many potential predators will face. 

      I really appreciate your comment – take good care!

      Jose

  4. Hi Jose!

    Unfortunately, I am not qualified to talk more precisely about your topic which I found very interesting and informative. But, I know that nature has a lot to offer and is giving us many answers for many issues, even if sometimes we don’t see them.

    In my opinion, going along nature and studying its potential, taking care of the “riches” the “mother nature” has to offer to us, and using the potentials for our lives instead building so many artificial structures that can be fine as well, just maybe not enough in the “accordance” with the nature, could make our living even more enjoyable and safer.

    The glass sponge’s impressive structural strength is for me just that” very impressive!” It shows the power of nature. I hope many builders will turn even more to nature and its potential when speaking about building various structures.

    Many designs are inspired by nature. Look at aircraft? Imitating birds, then churches that want to reach the gods with the mighty tops of the cathedral, and more. These are very powerful and important structures in our lives. 

    Aquariums of all shapes and designs, imitating the natural sea environment, the lovely jewelry inspired by many natural forms and colors, the rainbow modeling, the floors of the houses, gardens and not to name many other structures and work.

    I enjoyed reading your post,
    best regards,
    Igor

    • Hello Igor! Indeed nature has the superior designs that we should be emulating; remember it she spent 3.5 billion years designing structures – and  that’s only here on earth. 

      You are right. We have always looked to nature for inspiration and I believe we always will. 

      I thank you for your great comment, 

      Jose

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