A peculiar sponge found in the depths of the ocean has spiked the interest of researchers. The reason being its remarkable skills in controlling the flow of water through its body without expending energy. They found sponge’s zero energy flow control could inspire energy efficient designs.

The University of Rome Tor Vergata and NYU Tandon School of Engineering recently undertake an interesting research. A recent research via an extremely high-resolution computer simulation shows how the skeletal structure of the Venus flower basket sponge (Euplectella aspergillum) uses current energy. It demonstrates how it picks up slow currents going down in the deep ocean. Also, how these sponges downward currents upwards into its central body cavity, so it can feed from plankton and other food particles suspended in.

The study was co-led by Dr. Giacomo Falcucci of the Tor Vergata University of Rome and Prof. Maurizio Porfiri from NYU Tandon Institute.

Dr. Falcucci says, “From an engineering perspective, the skeletal system of the sponge shows remarkable adaptations to its environment, not only from the structural point of view, but also for what concerns its fluid dynamic performance.”

The sponge has arrived at an elegant solution for maximizing nutrient supply while operating entirely through passive mechanisms,” Dr. Falcucci added.

Research Method and Tools Used

The Italian supercomputing center CINECA provides Leonardo, an evidence-based computation machine. It is a 3D computer model, consisting of 100 billion points, that represents the exquisite spiral skeletal structure.

It can make astronomical calculations per second. The team integrated realistic water flow around and through the digital sponge. It took place in various current magnitudes and conditions.

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Making New Energy Efficient Designs

Researchers emphasize the biomimicry principles of the sponge’s combining feature. They believe it can further apply to new designs, including chemical reactor optimization. It is possible to increase the oxygen flow via the construction of such cells as part of the ventilation systems. It can also improve air filtration inside buildings.

The curved uneven ridges might even be characteristic of aerodynamic designs with low drag which at the same time provide the required interior airflow. Once again, nature has provided an ingenious model for technological innovation.

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Natural Working Principle

The sponge use its spiral, ridge, surface that acts as a spiral staircase to perform the task. It uses the simple laws of physics to draw water upwards through its porous, frame-like structure. Thus, saves on the energy demands of pumping.

Such lattices assist in saving energy by minimizing the drag at the high speed of the flow. Natural ventilation in deep ocean floors is remarkably effective. It showcases how sponges play a crucial role in this harsh environment. The examination led to the fact that the sponge’s passive filtration of food works only at very slow current speeds. It is just centimeters per second of its environment.

Source: Deep-sea sponge’s “zero-energy” flow control could inspire new energy efficient designs


Elliot is a passionate environmentalist and blogger who has dedicated his life to spreading awareness about conservation, green energy, and renewable energy. With a background in environmental science, he has a deep understanding of the issues facing our planet and is committed to educating others on how they can make a difference.

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