The Netherlands is a fairly small country, so to support a growing population, the Dutch people have historically expanded out to sea. It's a remarkable feat of engineering how much land they've managed to reclaim by building dikes, but it might not be a sustainable solution nowadays. To update that tradition, the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) is testing the concept of an artificial floating island.
MARIN's floating island is made up of large triangles that connect to each other in a modular fashion. Structurally, it works like the Italian Floating Piers and walkways we saw last year, but on a much bigger scale: MARIN says that floating islands built in this way could be as big as 5 km (3.1 miles) wide, and used for a variety of purposes.
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"As sea level rises, cities become overcrowded and more activities are carried out at sea, raising the dikes and reclaiming land from the seas are perhaps no longer an effective solution," says Olaf Waals, project manager of MARIN's floating islands. "An innovative alternative that fits with the Dutch maritime tradition is floating ports and cities."
These new floating spaces could support offshore homes, public spaces, docks for the loading and unloading of ships, fishing and seaweed-harvesting facilities, and renewable energy systems like wind, solar, tidal or wave energy generators.
But there are still plenty of questions surrounding the project's viability. The MARIN team is investigating the best ways to lock the triangles together and anchor the island to the seabed. Whether the undulations of the water will be too disruptive to the structures or people onboard, and how to minimize the environmental effects of the new islands are other issues that need to be addressed.
To answer these questions, MARIN is running computer simulations and testing the idea with a scale model island made up of 87 triangles, in a facility it calls the Offshore Basin. This 40 x 40 m (131 x 131 ft) pool allows the team to simulate wind, waves and currents, and study how the island would handle these conditions in the real world.
The team's tests, as well as computer images of what the end result might look like, can be seen in the video below.