Mighty Spongebob

Sponge in the ocean

Does Spongebob Squarepants have the perfect frame?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We, humans, need our buildings to be nice and sturdy. There are definitely right and VERY wrong ways to put them together. But what’s the LEAST amount of support you need to still have a sturdy structure?

To investigate, Matheus Fernandes and researchers at Harvard University used marine sponges. Like our friend Spongebob! These little creatures have mastered building their skeletons to withstand strong ocean currents.

The researchers built 3D printed models of buildings and sponge skeletons to compare their strength. The structures were stretched, twisted, and crushed! Which one held up best?

No contest – sponges have already solved our problem! Their skeleton is strong and efficient, built like crisscrossed garden lattices layered on top of each other.

The design of the sponge skeleton could inspire stronger and lighter constructions. This doesn’t just mean taller structures and longer bridges. It also means building with less waste!

Spongebob may seem like a softie – but he’s tougher than you think!

Fernandes, M. C., Aizenberg, J., Weaver, J. C., & Bertoldi, K. (2020). Mechanically robust lattices inspired by deep-sea glass sponges. Nature Materials. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-020-0798-1