Porto team uses 3D printing to create reefs in the Atlantic

Researchers at the Interdisciplinary Center for Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR) in Porto are developing, through 3D printing technologies, artificial reefs with “new forms and materials” that aim to rehabilitate and protect degraded areas of the Atlantic Ocean.

This technology will by far be a step further compared to what exists.” After deepening our research, we found that a little along the Atlantic coast, the forms of reefs used are poor, ” said today João Franco, a researcher at CIIMAR and the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP).

The European project, called ‘3D PARE’, started in January and aims, through 3D printing technologies, to develop “new reefs” with three-dimensional shapes, using “more environmentally friendly” materials.

We are testing biological materials and we are going to take advantage of the shells of bivalves and mortars [sand aggregates], and the idea is that these materials are more attractive for the colonization of fauna and flora,” said the researcher.

According to João Franco, in addition to new materials, the reefs created will also have “different forms“, something that the researcher believes could become an obstacle, because “it is difficult to please all marine organisms.

3D printing will allow us to make shapes that are unthinkable with classical methods,” he says, “so far we have defined three designs with three levels of complexity and different surfaces, some flatter, some with holes, not all animals prefer the same type of reefs or surfaces, there are animals that prefer one kind of holes and others a certain kind of roughness, “he explained.

In this sense, the ‘3D PARE’ project, which in addition to CIIMAR has the collaboration of FCUP, the Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), the University of Cantabria (Spain), the University of Bournemouth Kingdom) and the School of Construction Engineers (in France), has as main objectives “to rehabilitate areas that are already degraded” either by marine erosion or by the effect of fishing and “increase fish production”.

We will not put the reefs in the habitats where the conditions are good, but where the impact of these artificial reefs will be positive and allow the management and production of the species and that has effects in the research,” he revealed.

The research team will, therefore, implement and monitor nine experimental reefs on the north coast of Portugal, on the coast of Asturias, Spain, on the coast of Normandy-France and on the south coast of England.

The ‘3D PARE’ project is an INTERREG program, an EU-funded initiative aimed at cooperation and enhances the cross-fertilization of experience and knowledge among 36 Atlantic regions in five European countries.

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