Our Oceans Are a Repository of Important Raw Materials

June 10, 2017 by

The world’s oceans help regulate our climate but, as a result of global warming, are rising to critical levels–a serious threat to the survival of the planet. The effort to thwart climate change is essential for the preservation of the Earth, but maintaining the health of our seas is also important as they are an abundant source of highly beneficial raw materials for medicinal, industrial, and biotechnological uses.

Every year since 2002 The Ocean Project has promoted and coordinated World Oceans Day (this year June 8) to honor, protect, and conserve the world’s oceans. In addition to regulating climate, oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe and help feed us.

You can take a part in marine conservation efforts by choosing to eat seafood from sustainable fisheries, keeping waste from the seas, not releasing balloons, not purchasing items that exploit marine life, and supporting marine conservation organizations.

Oceans are hosts for a number of materials–natural ones, not the hazardous ocean plastic or fishing nets with which we have polluted our waters. With algae, we can now produce biodegradable water bottles. Through its process of photosynthesis,  and ability to absorb nutrients, seaweed offers a viable method for extracting toxins from waste water—ammonia, ammonium, nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, iron, and copper from our water supplies.

Chitin, the main component forming the outer covering of crustaceans, spiders, and insects, offers new medical and industrial uses such as in the production of bioplastics–reproducible forms of biodegradable plastic.

Fish leather is an alternative to land-based exotic leathers of endangered species like crocodiles and some snakes.

Using 3D printing and biomimicry, researchers at MIT are replicating the tough covering found on conch shells, whose structure is 10 times stronger than nacre, or mother of pearl.

On the Hawaiian island of Molokai, I had the rare opportunity to observe highly endangered Hawaiian monk seals. They hang out on beaches of small low-lying islands where rising sea levels threaten to wash away its habitat. Volunteers patrol shoreline areas to find and document their activity. Can you spot the seal among the rocks? Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens.

This strong metamaterial is highly resistant to fractures and tough but flexible like rubber, making it useful in the production of helmets and other impact-resistant gear. 3D printing offers the opportunity to produce customized helmets and other products.

The Ocean Project  is a collaborative organization that works in partnership with hundreds of organizations, including World Ocean Network, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and other organizations from all sectors.

Via Materia. All photos by Robin Plaskoff Horton.

 

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