Can Coconuts Save Lives? – Earthquake Resistant Buildings

Can Coconuts Save Lives? Earthquake-Resistant Buildings

Most of you know that Coconuts are good for health but can coconuts save lives? Researchers from the University of Freiburg’s Plant Biomechanics Group in Germany are inspired by coconuts to find better ways of constructing buildings that are more resistant to earthquakes.

Coconut palms can grow up to 98 feet high (30 meters) and the coconut shell is extremely hard because it needs to protect the inner seed when it falls to the ground. The force it generates from falling that high is so great that it is known to have killed people when struck on the head by a falling coconut. The shell has to be made with something special to withstand such a high impact. With that in mind, how can we use this to our benefit?

Coconut Layers

The coconut shells have three layers. The outer exocarp (brown leathery part), a fibrous mesocarp, and a tough inner endocarp. Researchers are using compression machines and an impact pendulum to see how the protective layers disperse energy upon impact. They found that the inner layer (endocarp) was made up of a ladder-like vascular system that can withstand strong bending forces. Each cell is surrounded by several lignified rings joined together by parallel bridges (See photo below).

Courtesy: Plant Biomechanics Group Freiburg

Courtesy: Plant Biomechanics Group Freiburg

Plant biomechanist Dr. Stephanie Schmier said

“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”.

The angles in the vascular bundles help divert the trajectory of the cracks. So the longer a crack has to travel, the more likely it’ll stop before it gets too big. If the energy was concentrated on a single area it could cause major damage. Basically with this design, the energy is spread out so much that it runs out before it can do any major damage to the shell.

She also said:

“This combination of lightweight structuring with high energy dissipation capacity is of increasing interest to protect buildings against earthquakes, rock fall and other natural or man-made hazards”

If engineers and architects are able to use this knowledge and implement a similar design in concrete and building designs, we may be able to live in earthquake resistant homes in the future. This may mean safer homes and buildings that won’t collapse as easily but keep in mind that most injuries during earthquake are caused by falling objects like light fixtures, bookcases, tv’s, dishes, etc so it’s important to keep them secure.

Isn’t it amazing how nature already has all these things built in? These things have evolved over the years until they are near perfect. We should look more into nature to help us instead of re-inventing the wheel and struggling to create better ways ourselves.

Read more safety precautions you can take now to help earthquake proof your home.

10 Easy Ways to Earthquake Proof Your Home

Also make sure you know what to do during an earthquake as the wrong actions can cause injury.

What to do During an Earthquake

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Paul

    This is some great information, when there is a natural disaster the main reason why so many people lose their lives and so many are injured is due to lack of awareness and preparedness this site as certainly open my eyes to some basic steps that I can implement to make my home much safer place for my family and myself in the event of an earthquake or other natural disasters. I will certainly keep an eye on this site for any future updates that will make us safer, and I now know how important is a coconut, thanks for this information it was worth every minute of my time.

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Thanks for the feedback! Glad you could learn some stuff to keep you and your family safe.

      Reply
  2. Mohammad Makki

    This was really fun to read. I love seeing how science and technology are so advanced, but still there’s so much to be learned from the natural world! Coconuts are miracles of nature. Their defense mechanism just sounds perfect for earthquake protection. Thanks for the science lesson Andy! Keep the earthquake awareness message going!

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed it Mohammad! Yes, nature is an incredible thing and there’s so much we can learn from it. Stay safe!

      Reply
  3. Lukasz Jabcon

    WOW that’s amazing. If only we could use this in our building industry… You have quite a lot of amazing info here. I will bookmark your site. I never experienced an earthquake myself, but at lease now I will know how to act on my trip to Japan next year if one occurs when I’m there. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      There are several earthquakes in Japan everyday. Thankfully most of them are minor and can’t be felt but just a few years ago the Great Tohoku earthquake devastated Japan with a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake (largest every in Japan’s history) which generated a massive tsunami that caused a lot of damage. Most people are reactionary and often only take action AFTER a devastating event happens and not before. It’s great that you’re learning preparedness so you have the knowledge to take appropriate action if an earthquake strikes.

      Reply
  4. Beth White

    Thank you for the information. It make me rethink about what to do during an earthquake. I thought the best thing to do was to get outside. Didn’t realize that what we have to watch out for is all the debris flying around. This is valuable, and most important – correct – information.

    I do agree, we can indeed learn from nature and I learned a lot about what coconuts can teach us, that I didn’t know before, about earthquakes.

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      If you are already outside it’s best to stay outside and try to get to an open area where telephone poles and trees cannot fall on you. If you are indoors, however, you should immediately take cover rather than try to run out. Reason being, a lot of people get injured from being off balance while the shaking is occurring. When they fall it also leaves them exposed to falling debris. Glad you can learn about earthquake safety and hope you can spread the info around so more people can be safe.

      Reply
  5. sophie

    Thank you for such of great information is very useful. I will definitely keep eyes on this site for any future updates that can me and my family safer, and I now know how important is a coconut, thanks again for this powerful information.

    sophie64

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      No problem Sophie! Glad you found the site useful. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to check out the preparedness section to learn about what you can do before, during, and after an earthquake. This basic information can help prevent injury.

      Reply

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