Marine Sponge Design for Stronger Skyscrapers and Lighter Spacecraft

Engineering researchers from Harvard  are using the glassy skeletons of marine sponges to inspire the next generation of stronger skyscrapers, lighter spacecraft, and longer bridges. The researchers have demonstrated that the diagonally-reinforced square lattice-like skeletal structure of Euplectella aspergillum, a deep-water marine sponge, has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than the traditional lattice designs that have used for centuries in construction. The researchers say they have found that the sponge's diagonal reinforcement strategy achieves the highest buckling resistance for any given amount of material. In simulations and experiments, the researchers replicated the sponge's design and compared its skeletal architecture to existing lattice geometries. The sponge design outperformed them all, withstanding heavier loads without buckling. The researchers showed that the paired parallel crossed-diagonal structure improved overall structural strength by over 20 percent, without the need to add additional material.