Sponges may conjure visions of the soft and squishy, but some of those living deep beneath the sea build complex glass structures that are marvels of engineering.
The remarkable design of Venus' Flower Basket contains core construction strategies used in civil and mechanical engineering, and at a scale 1,000 times smaller.
The sponge first builds strong microscopic fibers by gluing together thin layers of glass. Then it gathers these laminated fibers together for even more strength. It's like a bundle of sticks tied together much harder to break than a single twig. The bundles are arranged in a grid that gets embedded into glass cement, so it becomes like reinforced concrete.
People use these kinds of techniques to build structures such as skyscrapers. But Joanna Aizenberg of Bell Laboratories says what's amazing is that the sponge grows its lattice and its glasswork doesn't require the kind of red-hot furnace that human glass makers need.
"I cannot imagine how a structure of this sophistication can be produced," says Aizenberg, the study's lead author.
If you look closely to buildings such as Foster's Swiss Re tower, or Nouvel's Agbar, or Guangzhou's TV Tower in China, you will surely notice how largely they took inspiration from these amazing guys!
Here is an amazing video (in german w/ french subtitles... sorry!) about structural experiences made by some scientists... Really, worth taking a look! Also explains why they produce light, and how they cohabitate with shrimps deep under the sea...