Structural material from Harvard University has a diagonally-reinforced square lattice structure that makes it strong and lightweight.


  • Increased strength
  • Increased durability
  • Reduced materials
  • Lightweight


  • Building materials
  • Architecture

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities

The Challenge

Buildings and bridges are usually made of very rigid materials such as concrete and steel. When an earthquake or other natural disaster hits, the inflexible structure can crack or break. If structural damage occurs, the repairs can be costly, or could lead to catastrophic failure of the overall structure.

Innovation Details

The material has a diagonally-reinforced square lattice-like skeletal structure, inspired by the Venus’ flower basket. The diagonal reinforcement increases the material’s resistance to buckling or breaking under a large force. The structure also has a high strength-to-weight ratio, meaning it can withstand heavy forces with less material than a typical lattice structure.

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Biological Model

The Venus’ flower basket lives anchored to the deep ocean floor. Also known as glass sponges, their cylindrical skeletons are made out of silica, the main component of glass. The silica is arranged in concentric layers known as spicules. The spicules are arranged into a tube-shaped square lattice. Two separate but overlapping lattices make up the main frame, and because these lattices can still move relative to one another, the skeleton can be flexible while it’s growing. The squares of the lattice are reinforced by struts that run vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. These struts are made of bundles of spicules and further support the lattices against bending, sliding, and twisting forces.