Life Forms: exploring Monorhaphis chuni

An hexactinellid sponge silica structure. Author/Photographer/Artist: fluor_doublet Source: Flickr
Keywords: hexactinellid sponge, silica, glass, skeleton
License: CC-by-nc-sa – Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

Building Monorhaphis chuni structures from powdered glass.  The image shown is from a couple years back. I am currently constructing a similar form, approximate 30 inches long by [remains to be seen]. The deadline to submit work towards Life Forms is December 10th, 2015.

More and more I see my work and methodology informed through Biomicry. That said, I watched an interesting Ted talk awhile back with designer Janine Benyus, which definitely inspired! Please check it out here.

I imagine creating a liquid or substrate that could be adapted to 3D printing technology to produce similar forms. A tank containing the silicatein protein would combine with silicic acid to form the amorphous silica {or perhaps the protein would pull silicic acid from air or water?], repeatedly building up rings around a spicule structure [concentric deposition]. Perhaps these 3 dimensionally printed forms would be created within a saline solution? Allowing them to remain buoyant during construction, similar to how the sponge forms.

Meanwhile, I will build the forms from glass powders within a kiln, temperatures varying between 1240f and 1480f, that is unless anyone out there in the interwebs reads this and knows of a 3D printing method already available? 

These silica structures self-assemble.  

Monorhaphis chuni sponges have evolved the genes to synthesize giant basal spicule that are nearly 3 meters long. The sponge’s cells absorb minute traces of silicic acid from sea water and use it to produce a monolithic amorphous silica rod by concentric deposition. Sclerocytes (a type of cell) form rings around a nascent spicule and produce a protein called silicatein to convert silicic acid to amorphous silica. Each ring is only 10 microns wide but repeated cycles result in the macroscopic structure that supports the sponge above the sea floor.