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Better Buildings Thanks to… Coconut Trees?

coconut close up

Your endocarp is showing. Photo: Science Daily

Coconuts are well-known for their tasty flavor and notoriously-difficult-to-crack shell. But a closer look at the fruit of coconut trees might reveal a new way to build earthquake-resistant buildings.

 

The coconut tree’s fruit is one of nature’s most useful products. Its sweet innards produce milk, oil, cosmetics, and soaps, and its outer shell can be used for a wide array of things, from charcoal to furniture and decorations.

It seems that coconut trees are the plant that keeps on giving, through teaching us a new way to possibly build our buildings to stand up to the stresses of natural and human-made disasters. The secret lies in the endocarp, or the fibrous, netted layer that makes up the inner-most part of a coconut’s shell.

 

First, a brief overview of coconut tree science might be in order:

The coconut’s hard shell is specially suited to allow the fruits to remain uncracked after falls of up to 100 feet. But it’s not just the hard leathery exterior (the exocarp), the sturdy, fibrous mesocarp beneath that, or the tough endocarp underneath that, it’s a combination of all three layers working in synch. And the endocarp, that final layer between shell and the flesh of the coconut, holds the valuable lesson for engineers and architects.

In one researcher’s words: “The endocarp seems to dissipate energy via crack deflection. This means that any newly developed cracks created by the impact don’t run directly through the hard shell.”

Essentially, the latter-shaped endocarp, as seen above, absorbs the majority of the shock of impact away from the exocarp/outer layer. It does it so effectively, that a coconut can fall from heights that would kill any human with hardly a scratch to show from it.

Currently, new buildings in many cities near major earthquake zones are required to be earthquake ready, but if it were possible to integrate the intense crack deflecting abilities of the coconut into our modern structures, we’d see far less destruction when disaster strikes.

 

Though coconuts can fall from great heights without breaking, they are no match for this guy’s teeth and a sharp stick. Enjoy:

coconut trees hawaii

 

Source: Science Daily

 

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