Scanning electron microscope image of a microalgal colonies in the hybrid living biopolymers
Researchers have succeeded in 3D-printing coral-type structures in which dense populations of microscopic algae can grow. As detailed in a new paper just published in the journal Nature Communications, the work could lead to new biocompatible materials that aid in coral conservation as well as approaches to cultivating algae for bioproducts in developing countries.
Daniel Wangpraseurt, a Marie Curie Fellow from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, and his team used optical coherence tomography to scan living corals and create models for their 3D printed designs. Just like natural corals, the fabricated bionic corals redistribute light with high efficiency, and the team measured algae growth rates that were 100 times higher than in standard liquid growth mediums.
“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,” says Wangpraseurt. “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.”
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