Sponges, Skyscrapers, and Bridges

Sponges, Skyscrapers and Bridges
Venus’ Flower Basket Sponge

As we have said many times, examining design in the natural world can lead to solutions for human problems. We have mentioned that Velcro came about by studying burdock plant seeds. Spider webs have taught us how to make stronger fibers. Now there is a connection between sponges, skyscrapers, and bridges.

Researchers at Harvard University and the National Science Foundation have published the results of the study of a sponge called Venus’ Flower Basket (Euplectella aspergillum). It’s a deep water glass sponge that has a lot to teach engineers about building bridges and skyscrapers.

This sponge employs two sets of parallel diagonal skeletal struts that intersect and are fused to an underlying square grid creating a checkerboard-like pattern. Research shows that this design has a significantly higher strength-to-weight ratio than the traditional lattice designs used to construct buildings and bridges for centuries.

Matheus Fernandes, who is the first author of the research paper, says, “We found that the sponge’s diagonal reinforcement strategy achieves the highest buckling resistance for a given amount of material, which means we can build stronger and more resilient structures by rearranging existing material in the structure.”

These sponges have used this structure from the beginning of life on Earth. Peter Anderson, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Materials Research, says, “The structures of marine sponges inspire not only skyscrapers and bridges, but have the potential to accelerate the discovery and development of lightweight, porous materials with superior mechanical properties.”

Romans 1:20 speaks of being able to see God’s wisdom and design “from the creation of the world.” From burdocks and Velcro to sponges, skyscrapers, and bridges, wherever we look in nature, we see that a wonder-working hand has gone before.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: nsf.gov