The Curious Strength of a Sea Sponge’s Glass Skeleton
A sea sponge that has fascinated biologists for almost two centuries makes its own glass skeleton by using acid extracted from seawater. It’s only one of the interesting properties exhibited by the creature — nicknamed the Venus’ flower basket — that Fulton Schools Associate Professor Dhruv Bhate calls “the holy grail of engineering design.” A team of Harvard materials scientists and engineers is making new discoveries about the animal’s capabilities, including details about the makeup and structure of its almost uncrushable skeleton. In separate investigations, Bhate’s team is looking at how the sponge’s skeleton can maintain flexibility while also remaining so strong. If the capabilities of this sea sponge can be fully understood and replicated, it could lead to new ideas for designs of biology-inspired technology.