Scientists from Deakin University in Australia have teamed up with Beach Energy Ltd to test whether 3D-printed, biodegradable structures can be used to restore coastal wetlands, according to an article published by ABC News.

The 3D-printed structures are produced by BESE (Biodegradable Elements for Starting Ecosystems) in the Netherlands and are known as "BESE-elements", trademarked in the EU and the UK. The structures take the form of an intricate lattice, and are manufactured from industrial waste potato starch, left over from the chips industry. Seedlings of species such as mangrove are planted in the lattice, which provides the young plants with protection from wind and waves as they grow, by slowing water flow and trapping soil. Within two to ten years, the lattice biodegrades, leaving the established plant free to expand.

Coastal wetlands, like mangroves swamps and sea grass forests, not only provide an essential habitat for marine wildlife, but also prevent soil erosion and trap atmospheric carbon.

The success of the project will be monitored over the next three years as part of the "Regenerating Our Coasts" program run by Deakin's Blue Carbon Lab.

Recycling industrial waste to produce non-toxic structures that protect and revitalise our coastal ecosystems, before disappearing back into the environment, is just one example of how clever innovators all over the world are helping to tackle climate change. The use of 3D printing to produce these complex structures also illustrates how established technologies are being put to work for new and often surprising applications!

Researchers are using 3D-printed, biodegradable structures to help seedlings to grow

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