Living Sea Sculpture's Innovations in Coral Reef Designs & Conservation

Living Sea Sculpture continues to research and innovate art, science, and technology for coral reef restoration.

Biopolymer Testing for Coral Fragmentation Planting

The latest biopolymer experiments with coral fragmentation planting on Zoe. 

Research Article in Advanced Materials, Published by Wiley Online Library  | December 14, 2022 | Authors: Guillermo ReyesMabel Vega-ColomaAnna AntonovaRubina AjdarySolène JonveauxColleen FlaniganNathalie LautenbacherOrlando J. Rojas

→ Wiley Online Library: Direct CO2 Capture by Alkali-Dissolved Cellulose and Sequestration in Building Materials and Artificial Reef Structures

→ PDF version


Current carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies require high energy input and costly catalysts. Here, an effective pathway is offered that addresses climate action by atmospheric CO2 sequestration. Industrially relevant highly reactive alkali cellulose solutions are used as CO2 absorption media. The latter lead to mineralized cellulose materials (MCM) at a tailorable cellulose-to-mineral ratio, forming organic-inorganic viscous systems (viscosity from 102 to 107 mPa s and storage modulus from 10 to 105 Pa). CO2 absorption and conversion into calcium carbonate and associated minerals translate to maximum absorption of 6.5 gCO2 gcellulose−1, tracking inversely with cellulose loading. Cellulose lean gels are easily converted into dry powders, shown as a functional component of ceramic glazes and cementitious composites. Meanwhile, cellulose-rich gels are moldable and extrudable, yielding stone-like structures tested as artificial substrates for coral reef restoration. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) suggests new CCU opportunities for building materials, as demonstrated in underwater deployment for coral reef ecosystem restoration.

biopolymer experiment with lettuce leaf corals | Living Sea Sculpture
biopolymer disc trials for coral fragmentation planting | Living Sea Sculpture
coral planting biopolymer trials
biopolymer testing for coral anchoring to artificial reef | Living Sea Sculpture
biopolymer anchor and attachement for coral fragments
biopolymer coral fragment anchor breakage

Agro Blueberry Lignocellulose

Royal Society of Chemistry

From the journal: Green Chemistry | September 2022 | 


Read the Article:  → Upcycling agro-industrial blueberry waste into platform chemicals and structured materials for application in marine environments.


Blueberry pruning waste (BPw), sourced as residues from agroforestry operations in Chile, was used to produce added-value products, including platform chemicals and materials. BPw fractionation was implemented using biobased solvents (γ-valerolactone, GVL) and pyrolysis (500 °C), yielding solid fractions that are rich in phenols and antioxidants. The liquid fraction was found to be enriched in sugars, acids, and amides. Alongside, filaments and 3D-printed meshes were produced via wet spinning and Direct-Ink-Writing (DIW), respectively. For the latter purpose, BPw was dissolved in an ionic liquid, 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate ([emim][OAc]), and regenerated into lignocellulose filaments with highly aligned nanofibrils (wide-angle X-ray scattering) that simultaneously showed extensibility (wet strain as high as 39%). BPw-derived lignocellulose filaments showed a tenacity (up to 2.3 cN dtex−1) that is comparable to that of rayon fibers and showed low light reflectance (RES factor <3%). Meanwhile, DIW of the respective gels led to meshes with up to 60% wet stretchability. The LCF and meshes were demonstrated to have reliable performance in marine environments. As a demonstration, we show the prospects of replacing plastic cords and other materials used to restore coral reefs on the coast of Mexico.

YOUMARES 2021 Presentation

3D Rendering of Coral Species & Reef Designs

We are currently working on creating 3D renderings of dozens of coral species to use in the design and modeling of new artistic artificial coral reefs for coral restoration around the world. 

These coral skeletons are part of Dr. Donald Potts’ impressive collection at UCSC from the Potts Lab and his years of coral research.

Colleen captured these photos while obsessively observing their delicate, rigid beauty fabricated over years by tiny animals secreting calcium carbonate.

James Tunick of @theimclab is bringing these intricate structures into the digital space by running Colleen’s hand-held iPhone videos through his #3Dskan software and getting amazing results.

"I absolutely love spending time up close photographing and videoing them to get to know and feel what they are made of. And I mean that not only literally but in the personal way when you are close to a fabulous work of art or architecture that only nature can create."

Coral Skeletons

OMc4B Eg 7x7 1

3D Scans

S7G3Txlw copy
0m6UzSCQ 7x7 1

OBJ & PLY generated by 3Dskan software developed by James Tunic, The IMC Lab, using photogrammetry in processing hand-held iPhone video by Colleen Flanigan of coral skeletons from the collection of Dr. Donald Potts, UCSC

Contact for James Tunick, The IMC Lab:

3D Renderings of Zoe - A Living Sea Sculpture Structure

Ginormous thanks to @theimclab for creating a .obj of @zoelivingseasculpture. From there, more galactic thanks to @oskar.elek from UCSC’s Computational Media Creative Coding Lab, who ran it through his Polyphorm software developed to analyze intergalactic gas and dark matter filaments (together known as ‘Cosmic web’). Polyphorm uses the Monte Carlo Physarum Machine (MCPM) algorithm inspired by the foraging behavior of Physarum polycephalum ‘slime mold.’

We’re exploring new concepts, materials, simulations, and fabrication for the next reFORMed reefs.

3D Rendering of Artificial coral reef
3D Rendering of Zoe - A Living Sea Sculpture Artificial coral reef

Video Renderings of Zoe - A Living Sea Sculpture Structure

Play Video
Play Video about 3Dskans of Zoe – A Living Sea Sculpture

Oskar Elek ran his custom Polyphorm software on 3Dskans of Zoe – A Living Sea Sculpture

3D printed coral-red polyphorm cube
3D printed coral-red polyphorm cube
3D printed coral-red polyphorm
Section of 3D printed coral-red polyphorm cube
Prusa 3D printer Program for coral printing
Preparing coral for printing in Slicer software
Colleen's 3D Printer for coral and reef design modeling
3D Prusa printer thanks to Patreon member support
Oskar showing Colleen how to use the Prusa 3D printer.
Cross-section of Polyphorm before printing
Prusa 3D printer Program for coral printing
Processing and editing 3D coral