The process of Electrodeposition of Minerals in Sea Water known as
Mineral Accretion Technology was developed by Architect, Marine
Scientist, Prof. Wolf H. Hilbertz, through extensive experimental
applications, demonstration, and commercial projects commenced in
1974, covering coastal defense structures, shoreline stabilization
- erosion control, artificial reefs, mariculture, and marine
In the course developing Accretion Technology directed toward
structural applications, exceptional accumulations and growth
rates of marine organisms on accreting structures were observed.
The process was further developed as Biorock, "A METHOD OF
ENHANCING THE GROWTH OF AQUATIC ORGANISMS, AND STRUCTURES CREATED
In 1988, Prof. Wolf H.Hilbertz, began collaboration with Coral
Ecologist, Dr. Thomas J. Goreau, of the Global Coral Reef
Alliance, in research and development of Biorock with a focus on
coral propagation, preservation of corals, and coral reef
Demonstration projects conducted at number of locations around the
world have involved the grafting of salvaged coral fragments to
Biorock Reef Structures.
Enhanced growth rates of the salvaged corals were monitored and
Survival of corals on Biorock Reef Structures exceeded the
survival of corals on adjacent natural coral reef formations under
severely degrading environmental conditions.
Biorock Reef Structures immediately became integrated, living
parts of their marine environment, providing additional substrata
available and conducive to further natural settlement of wild
Biorock Reef Structures ultimately hold promise to augment
repopulating of corals on natural reefs that have suffered
degradation and devastation from numerous human related and
"Maldive Barnacle" Biorock Reef Structure
Restoration of coral growth under "impossible" conditions. In the
Maldives in 1998 only 1-5% of corals survived heatstroke caused by
global warming, but in the same habitats, 50-80% of the corals on
Biorock structures survived.
A method of enhancing growth of aquatic organisms in an aqueous
mineral-containing electrolyte such as sea water which comprises:
(a) installing a cathode and an anode in the electrolyte, (b)
applying a steady, pulsed or intermittent direct electric current
across the cathode and the anode to effect electrolysis, (c)
providing accreted mineral material on the cathode, (d) recruiting
aquatic organisms on or in the vicinity of the cathode, and (e)
creating by electrolysis conditions of higher alkalinity in the
electrolyte in the vicinity of the cathode than in the electrolyte
remote from the cathode to cause growth of the aquatic organisms
in the conditions in the vicinity of the cathode, the placement of
the anode being done in such a way as to minimize the effects of
hydrochloric acid produced at the anode. The method is
particularly described with reference to the growth of organisms
which deposit calcareous substances, such as corals, for the
creation of artificial reefs or coastal defence structures. The
invention is also useful in mariculture facilities, such as
oyster-producing installations, where the shellfish or other grown
organism is harvested.
By establishing a direct electrical current between electrodes in
an electrolyte like seawater, brine or brackish water, calcium
carbonates, magnesium hydroxides, and hydrogen are precipitated at
the cathode, while at the anode, oxygen and chlorine are produced.
The electrochemical precipitation of minerals at the surface, to
form a coating, or internally, to mineralize, of organic fibrous
material, such as wood, is utilized to prevent attack by fouling
and boring organisms, and to improve structural characteristics of
the material. To provide a mineral coating on a structure made of
a fibrous material, one or more cathodes are inserted in the
structure, which is disposed in an electrolyte such as seawater,
brine, or brackish water. One or more anodes are disposed in
proximity to the structure, and a direct electrical current is
established between the electrodes for a period of time sufficient
to coat the structure and/or mineralize the fibrous material.
By establishing a direct electrical current between electrodes in
an electrolyte, such as seawater or fresh water containing
minerals in solution, calcium carbonates, magnesium hydroxides,
and hydrogen are precipitated at the cathode, while at the anode,
oxygen and chlorine are produced. The electrochemical
precipitation of minerals at and in the vicinity of metal
reinforcement in a reinforced concrete structure is utilized to
repair damaged portions thereof, for example, fractures, cracks,
fissures, and voids. To repair reinforced concrete structures, the
structure is disposed in a volume of electrolyte. The metal
reinforcement is made a cathode by connection to the negative
terminal of a suitable DC power supply. One or more anodes are
disposed in proximity to the structure, and a direct electrical
current is established between the electrodes for a period of time
sufficient to fill by accretion cracks, fissures or voids in the
concrete body of the structure.
By establishing a direct electrical current between electrodes in
an electrolyte like seawater, calcium carbonates, magnesium
hydroxides, and hydrogen are precipitated at the cathode, while at
the anode, oxygen and chlorine are produced. The electrodeposition
of minerals is utilized to construct large surface area (i.e.
greater than 100 square feet) structures, building components and
elements of a hard, strong material (i.e. 1000-8000 P.S.I.
compression strength). To make a large surface area structure,
building component or element of hard, strong material, a
preshaped form of electrically conductive material is disposed in
a volume of electrolyte, such as seawater, to serve as a cathode,
one or more are anodes disposed in proximity to the form, and a
direct electrical current is established between the electrodes
for a period of time sufficient to accrete a solid covering of
material on the form.
Extraction of magnesium hydroxide involves (A) introducing a salt
solution or brine into both the cathode (1) and anode (2) zones of
a 2-chamber electrolytic cell, the zones being separated by a
membrane (3); (B) applying a direct current between cathode (4)
and anode (5) of a strength giving a high pH in the salt
electrolyte in the cathode zone (1); and (C) loosening the
accreted material (9) and removing it from cathode zone (1). An
independent claim is also included for an apparatus for the
extraction comprising (1) a membrane (3)-separated electrolytic
cell with one or more anodes (5) and cathodes (4) near the
membrane (3); (2) an inlet (6) for introducing the solution into
cathode zone (1) and an outlet (7) for removing used process
electrolyte and the Mg(OH)2; (3) an opening (8) in the anode zone
(2) introducing and removing the solution; (4) a device removing
the Mg(OH)2 (9) from cathode (4); and (5) a conveyor (11)
transporting the Mg(OH)2 from the cathode zone (1).
A method for the protection of wood, increasing the strength and
load-bearing capacity of wood, and increasing the capacity of wood
to generate friction with adjacent soils, by treating wood with
one or more minerals of low toxicity mixed with an aqueous medium,
to provide wood that retains the infused minerals for an extended
period of time while avoiding the detrimental environmental
effects of conventional chromium or copper-based inorganic salt
preservation and organic chemical methods.
Prof. Wolf Hartmut Hilbertz (April 16, 1938 – August 11, 2007) was
a German-born futurist architect, inventor, and marine scientist.
Youth and schooling
Wolf Hilbertz was born in Gütersloh, Germany in 1938, the first
child of Rudolf Hilbertz (1909–1995) and Erna Hilbertz, née Uslat
(1906–2008). His parents had quite different personalities;
whereas his father was artistic and inventive, thinking up one of
the first electric razors, his mother had a more down to earth,
practical approach. While his father would have liked to become an
artist, circumstances forced him to start working in a bank,
whereas his mother enjoyed her occupation, channeling her forceful
personality into her job as a school teacher.
After Wolf Hilbertz was born, the family moved to Ústí nad Labem /
Aussig in the Czech Republic. When World War II began, his father
volunteered for the Wehrmacht and became a member of the
Brandenburger special forces. Wolf's sister Uta was born in 1940.
His father was badly wounded in Greece in 1944 and fled from the
Red Army with his family towards the west in 1945.
As war refugees, he and his family settled in Detmold, Germany in
1946. He attended the Gymnasium (secondary school) there, which he
didn't complete. This would normally have precluded his attending
a German university. However, after completing his compulsory
military service, he went to Berlin in 1959 and signed up for a
high school equivalency entrance exam. He was one of the very few
to earn a "pass". Thus he was able to attend the Hochschule der
Künste Berlin, the Berlin University of the Arts, where he studied
architecture. He married in 1961 in Berlin and, upon earning his
architecture diploma in 1965, immigrated to New York with his
family in July of that year. 1966 he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan,
where he earned his Masters of Architecture at the University of
Michigan in 1967.
Hilbertz worked in architects' offices in Berlin, New York, and
Detroit. His first teaching position was in 1967 as an Assistant
Professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Together with Phil Harding, he was able to achieve that an
independent Architecture Department was set up. After several
years there, he conceived and published the concept of
Cybertecture. In 1970 he was taken onto the faculty of the
School of Architecture at the University of Texas along with
several other highly innovative new faculty by then-Dean Alan Y.
At the University of Texas, he founded the Responsive Environments
Laboratory, where he and his students developed and extended his
thinking about the automated creation of the built environment.
Within a very few years, he was tenured as a full professor for
his work. After several years, the focus of the lab shifted to the
construction of underwater structures by a method not unlike that
used by living corals. The material produced has since become
commonly known as seacrete or Biorock.
Hilbertz' work was influenced by and influenced the work of such
notables as Nicholas Negroponte.
His academic affiliations as an environmental educator and
researcher included Southern University, McGill University, the
University of the Arts Bremen, and The University of Texas, where
he also held an appointment as Sr. Research Scientist in Marine
Sciences. He founded the Symbiotic Processes Laboratory (UT).
Hilbertz formed and directed The Marine Resources Co., was a
co-founder and Director of Biorock Inc., Vice President of
Research of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, and founder and
President of Sun & Sea e.V., a non profit NGO.
He published extensively on his R & D and lectured widely in
the Americas, Europe, and Asia, conducting hands-on workshops. His
work has been exhibited on several continents. He authored several
US and international patents, the most environmentally important
one together with Dr. Thomas Goreau. In 1998 he and Thomas Goreau
were awarded the Theodore M. Sperry Award for Pioneers and
Innovators, the top award of the Society for Ecological
Hilbertz laid down the foundation for the discipline of
Cybertecture, emergent all-encompassing evolutionary environmental
systems, and invented/developed the mineral accretion process in
seawater. The development of Biorock Technology evolved from
Goreau / Hilbertz cooperation in Jamaica. The duo publicly
introduced the notion and basic framework of a new profession:
Seascape Architecture, a younger sister of the venerable design
discipline aptly named Landscape Architecture.
Installing, maintaining, and monitoring projects in many countries
together with his partner of twenty years, Tom Goreau, and with
the help of a host of dedicated associates, students, and
volunteers, Hilbertz designed and implemented seascaping projects
focusing on coral conservation / fish habitat, mariculture, and
erosion control. Whenever possible, this was done with direct
local government or community involvement and participation.
Production of building materials and components, metals, minerals
and gases from seawater, direct or indirect solar energy
conversion, sustainable brine utilization and model seacology
artificial/natural islands like the Autopia Saya Project in the
Indian Ocean initiated in 1997, are ongoing projects and concerns,
continuing after his death. His work is being continued by his
longtime partner Dr. Thomas Goreau.
Death and family
After suffering what were initially diagnosed as stomach problems
in the spring and summer of 2007, he was diagnosed with terminal
lung cancer at the end of July. He died August 11, 2007 in Munich.
He was survived by his mother († 2008), sister, his wife and two
ex-wives, and five children; two sons and three daughters. The urn
with his ashes was buried at the cemetery "Städtischer Friedhof
Wilmersdorf" in Berlin.
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