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Island Hub Achievement Report

March 2015
Objective: Reef Regeneration

Caqalai Biorck Project

Biorock is an artificial, revolutionary process designed to help speed up coral regeneration.
The process enhances the growth of coral aggregation using electrolysis.

Figure 1 - An example of a successful biorock structure

Biorock technology was discovered in the early 1990s by an American scientist called Wolf
Hibertz. The process uses either AC or DC electric current, which is conducted through a
steel rebar structure. Coral fragments are secured to the electrified structure and a second
electrified structure of lower nobility, usually titanium or aluminum is placed nearby. The
positive output from the power source is connected to the sacrificial anode, or the metal of
lower nobility, which then corrodes releasing H ions and creating an ion field. This ion field
engulfs the cathode, which is connected to the negative output causing a reaction that
releases OH ions, increasing the pH around the cathode. This causes calcium carbonate to
precipitate out from the surrounding water column. By providing coral with abundant

calcium carbonate, the key building block for coral growth, the coral expends less energy on
calcium carbonate production and therefore has more energy available for growth.
The optimum voltage directed through the structure is 6V. If the voltage is too high
magnesium carbonate forms which does not solidify, if it is too low no calcium carbonate
will form. Immediately after the circuit is created from the ion field, small trails of bubbles
are seen coming from both the anode and the cathode. The following reaction is occurring:
At the cathode -

4H O + 4e 2H + 4OH

At the anode - 2H O O + 4H +4e


The bubbles are Hydrogen being released from the cathode and oxygen being released from
the anode, the OH ions at the cathode continue in a secondary reaction to form CaCO :

Ca + HCO + OH CaCO + H O

Biorock has been used across the coral triangle and also areas such as the Red Sea and the
Caribbean to promote coastal protection, increased tourism value and reef regeneration. In
Pemueteran, Indonesia, the government funded a bio rock structure program starting in
2000 which now has over 200 structures that covered over 2 hectares of coastline. The
project was successful and an increase in fish abundance in the region has been linked with
the project.
Aims and Objectives
The aim of the Caqalai Biorock project is to design, fund and create a biorock structure using
electricity from renewable energy to help enhance the regrowth of up to a 100 fragments of
coral. The ultimate objective of the project is to enhance the growth and durability of
cyclone and coral disease damaged coral along the Caqalai Island house reef through an
innovative approach to coral planting. If successful, this process could provide an effective
way to enhance reef health and resilience. By up-scaling the bio rock process, the method
could provide an effective way to create new habitats for commercially important fish while
also helping to reduce erosion by acting as a natural barrier.
The structure in place at Caqalai base consists of two solar panels, one 140 W and one 50 W,
which are connected in parallel and run electricity down two, 60 meter cables. One cable
runs from the positive output to the anode, which in this case is a sanded down aluminum
scuba tank and the negative output to the cathode, a 6 X 4 m steel rebar structure. Attached
to the steel cathode are over 80 fragments of coral from 12 different species using steel
binding wire. The panel wattage and wiring has been installed in a way that ensures the
voltage delivered to the structure does not exceed the ideal voltage while also ensuring that
in most day time conditions the minimum voltage required for the process is met for a
significant portion of daylight hours.

By measuring the growth rates of ten different species of coral on the electrified structure
and comparing the rates to coral secured on a non-electrified structure the project will
assess the measurable benefits of the biorock process by comparing growth rate benefits
against the relative cost of the system.
All coral fragments are taken from within the same area and at the same depth. Along with
general monitoring, the structures will require cleaning of any epiphytes which have taken
advantage of the more beneficial conditions of the structure.
Once data on growth rate benefits is compared against cost to evaluate the value and
scalability of the project there will be opportunities to assess new ways to use the
technology to assist the recovery of Caqalais reefs from the devastation caused by cyclone
Evan in 2012. There is also potential, based on the current success of the system to trial a
more expensive and complex solar powered system using battery banks and solar
controllers in order to deliver optimum voltage 24 hours a day.
GVI hopes to trial further innovative methodologies to promote both natural resource
recovering and resilience and livelihood adaptation strategies in the area. Though the
biorock project is a small scale trial, GVI hopes to share results with relevant stakeholders in
an effort to further communicate the effectiveness, value, and accessibility of community
run reef health enhancing projects.

Figure 2 - Caqalai Biorock structure

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