Building with glass (2001)

VPRO/EMS films

Euplectella grows in deep water. It is commonly called a glass sponge because its skeleton is made of silica. The silica, which forms at a temperature of a few degrees above zero, is a technological marvel. Although the fibreglass-like structure of the glass sponge looks fragile, it can withstand the enormous pressure of the water deep in the ocean. The silica is virtually unbreakable. For humans, it is a lesson waiting to be learned. Scientists are trying to utilise the technology of the sponge to produce unbreakable glass.

The glass sponge often symbiotically houses a pair of shrimps that, once they mature, can never escape from the sponge. That explains the splendid skeleton containing two dried shrimp often given as a wedding gift in Japan.

This is episode 5 of the series ‘Dat willen wij ook” . The series ‘Dat willen wij ook’ (copy cats) tells us what we can learn from plants and animals. Each episode shows how scientist unravel one of the magnificent tricks of nature. And each episode shows how far we are in applying what we have learned.

Camera: Chris Blokhuis
Editing: Jurjen Blick