Scientists have developed a 3D-printed artificial reef designed to restore coral reefs.

It is no secret that the world’s coral reefs are dying out at an alarming rate. To help speed up the process of coral restoration, scientists at the University of Hong Kong have developed a so-called “coral reef disk”. The idea behind this artificial reef is to place them together on the ocean floor, providing a structure similar to coral reefs on which corals grow. Users can either transplant coral fragments onto the reef or wait for corals to multiply naturally in ocean currents.

Scientists have developed a 3D-printed artificial reef designed to restore coral reefs.

The reef sills, 60 cm (23.6 inches) in diameter, are roboted to print traditional terracotta 3D and then burned into kilns at temperatures of 1125 oC.

Scientists have developed a 3D-printed artificial reef designed to restore coral reefs.

Scientists have developed a 3D-printed artificial reef designed to restore coral reefs.

Scientists believe clay is much more environmentally friendly than concrete or steel, both of which have been used in coral reef construction projects in other groups. The production of the latter two substances not only produces greenhouse gas emissions, but the material itself also seeps toxic substances into seawater.

Scientists have developed a 3D-printed artificial reef designed to restore coral reefs.

Scientists have developed a 3D-printed artificial reef designed to restore coral reefs.

Scientists have developed a 3D-printed artificial reef designed to restore coral reefs.

In a pilot project, scientists transplanted three native corals from 128 artificial reef plates and placed them at three sites in Hong Kong’s Lower Bay Marine Park. Currently, more than three-quarters of coral reefs in Hong Kong, China, are built in the park, but in recent years coral populations have declined due to habitat destruction and coral bleaching.