Smart Generative Design for Artificial Reefs

Picture a world where coral reefs flourish again, providing habitat for an abundance of marine live, protecting coast lines and coastal communities. At the heart of this vision lies the lego-like architecture developed by the ETH spin-off rrreefs, an ingenious system designed to nurturing coral larva back into resilient reefs over the years. While the microscale structure of individual bricks has been previously studied, the real challenge lies in optimizing the macro-scale structure of the combined blocks for specific ocean conditions. This is where this thesis comes into play, designing artificial reefs that provide optimal conditions for coral growth while minimizing coastal erosion.

  • Project

    The lego-like architecture of the custom brick system allows for customized reef shapes that fit into the local environment, create habitat diversity, and divert currents. The surface structure of each brick helps coral larvae settle and grow by interacting with water flows to transport the tiny larvae towards the substrate. It then provides them with sheltered spaces with sufficient light and protection from predators and sand settlement. The hollow bricks provide excellent habitat for juvenile fish, crustaceans, sea urchins, nudibranchs, and many other critters that find shelter in reefs. To improve the chances of successful coral growth on the artificial reef, not only to the micro-scale structure of a single brick (has been done), but also the macro-scale structure of the combined blocks (goal of this thesis) must be optimized for specific ocean conditions. In this thesis we want to target the optimization of the macro-scale structure of the artificial reef for minimal costal erosion under the constraint of limited number of reef blocks available.

    • Use a low fidelity fluid simulation to train an algorithm in placing bricks for preventing coastal erosion given
      1. N number of bricks
      2. Coastal shape
      3. Bathymetry (Seafloor shape)
      4. Current (strength/direction), waves, …

    Possibly this can be split into two optimization problems:

    1. 2D vertical slice to optimize the height and thickness of the structure.
    2. 2D horizontal slice to optimize the placement of brick-blobs/islands with respect to each other.

    Optional: combine the two 2D solutions for a fixed coastal shape into a 3D structure and run this trough a higher fidelity fluid simulation to validate the effects of a single 3D reef structure on coastal  errosion.

  • Further Information

    • 30% theory, 70% implementation
    • Master’s thesis, 1 student
    • Prior knowledge recommended in
      • Machine Learning
      • Fluid Dynamics

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