Whenever you break a coconut, you realize that the shell cracks on one side with the other side still remaining in tact prompting you to hit the other side to the ground again. Based on this unique fracture behaviour of coconut shell, German scientists are advocating a new machanism to build structures which can withstand earthquakes.
Researchers of Plant Biomechanics Group of the University of Freiburg studied how the specialised structure of coconuts could help in making a building’s walls as their part of the larger project on “Biological Design and Integrative Structures.”
Using compression machines and an impact pendulum to see how coconuts disperse energy so as to make buildings that can resist earthquakes and other natural disasters, civil engineers and material scientists at the university came together to design new structural material that can withstand shocks during an earthquake.
“By analysing the fracture behaviour of the samples and combining this with knowledge about the shell’s anatomy gained from microscopy and computed tomography, we aimed to identify mechanically relevant structures for energy absorption,” said researcher Stefanie Schmier.
They tried to endocarp the layer which consists of highly lignified stone cells and a ladder-like design which is thought to help withstand bending forces. “The endocarp seems to dissipate energy via crack deflection,” said Stefanie. It means any newly developed cracks created by the impact don’t run directly through the entire hard shell.
The study found that the angle of vascular bundles actually helps to divert the route of cracks, making them stop half-way. “The combination of lightweight structuring with high energy dissipation capacity is of increasing interest to protect buildings against earthquakes, rock fall and other natural or manmade hazards,” added Stefanie.
coconut husks or the rough exterior shells of the coconut is currently used in creating enriched potting soil and as chips that can be used to provide ground cover for flower beds, create the products at home. The husks are used by tribal people to make various types of folk art items, including masks, simple decorative boxes, and even imaginative picture frames. But as it is a natural element, it will decompose over time.