Scientists at University of Freiburg, Germany, are researching on how coconuts can be used building earthquake-proof structures. As part of the project named 'Biological Designs and Integrative Structures', researchers are working with material scientists and civil engineers to find applications for the unique structure of the fruit.
The coconut has long been touted by scientists and nutritionists for its versatility. Coconut water is high in potassium, making it the perfect natural alternative to energy drinks. Its oil is able to promote the production of HDL, a healthy cholesterol. And now, scientists are finding ways to use the fruit in designing building that can withstand earthquakes.
Since coconut trees grow as tall as thirty metres high, coconut is formed to withstand falls from great heights. Using compression machines and an impact pendulum, scientists have been measuring how coconuts disperse energy and hope to translate its structural integrity to man-made structures.
The study's findings indicate that the inner layer of the coconut, known as the endocarp, consists of specialised cells with a ladder-like design. This could be the reason for its ability to withstand any bending forces. Plant biochemist Stephanie Schmier said, “The endocarp seems to dissipate energy via crack deflection, which means any newly-developed cracks created by the impact doesn't run directly through the hard shell'.
The applications of these findings could prove useful in earthquake prone areas where minimal damage from such disasters is imperative for a quick recovery. By making sure large buildings do not crack or topple when the ground starts shaking, the potential for the new technology could save lives.