Posted September 07, 2020 16:50:23The Australian researchers have shown that they have created artificial coral reefs in a large-scale ocean environment in the Atlantic Ocean, using the latest supercomputer, and are now hoping to test it on coral reef habitats in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
The team from the Australian National University in Canberra made their findings public at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Melbourne on Wednesday (September 8).
They said the reefs they have built are 10 times bigger than the smallest reefs that were constructed in the 1960s.
“We were able to create coral reefs on this scale, that is 10 times the size of those reefs that are currently there,” Dr Michael Gollop, who led the research group, said.
“The reefs that we have built were a lot more complex and the reefs were more structured than the reefs that have been built in the past.”
The reefs are built using carbon nanotubes, which are lightweight, porous materials that are the building blocks for all kinds of organic materials.
The Australian team used two computers – the National Centre for Scientific Computing (NCSC) at the Australian Centre for Ocean Technology at ANU and the National Computational Centre (NCC) at Queensland University of Technology.
“These are supercomputers which can run a huge amount of data at high speed,” Dr Gollops said.
The scientists built the artificial reefs using the National Computer Facility (NCF), a system that runs at around 100 gigabits per second.
“It is capable of running the largest amount of processing power that we can currently put into this system,” Dr Paul Pyle, who helped develop the system, said in a statement.
“Its the same kind of system that was used to create a reef in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.”
The reef was designed to be submerged for up to 20 years, so that the carbon nanodiamonds would not seep into the surrounding ocean, and would be left to build up over time.
The reefs can also be shaped by moving the material, so the carbon will gradually build up in the corals and make them more stable.
Dr Pyle said that in order to create reefs, the researchers first had to identify the properties of the material.
“What we wanted to do was identify which properties of carbon nanostructures are associated with their ability to withstand the forces that we are looking at, and then we wanted the coralline algae to provide the inputs for that process,” he said.
Dr Gollopes research group also worked with Australian university and private sector partners to build the reef.
“Our research has shown that the coralls are able to use the information provided by the carbon to generate new shapes and sizes of coral reefs,” he added.
“This is how we have created reefs that look and act like coral reefs.”
Dr Pyles said that the researchers hope to have their artificial reef up and running within the next six months.