Biorock Technology
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Biorock Technology

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 construction...

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 THEREBY"

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 restoration.

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 documented.

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 corals.

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 natural causes.

"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.

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Method of enhancing the growth of aquatic organisms, and structures created thereby

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.

Accretion coating and mineralization of materials for protection against biodegradation

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.

Repair of reinforced concrete structures by mineral accretion

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.

Mineral accretion of large surface structures, building components and elements

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.

Process and apparatus for electrolytic extraction of magnesium hydroxide from seawater, brines or concentrated solutions uses a two-zone cell at high pH with membrane separation

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).

Non-toxic wood preservation

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.
Wolf Hilbertz

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.

Professional career

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.[1] 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. Taniguchi (1969–1972).

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.[2] 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.[citation needed]

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 Restoration.

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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