Venice, Italy, is a city in perpetual flood. But sinking buildings have put this 1,300-year-old urban marvel in peril.
Venice could be saved from sinking into the sea by releasing fat globules similar to olive oil into the water that are ‘programmed’ to form limestone reefs, say architects.
The novel solution for the threatened Italian city, built on silty islands on the Adriatic coast, uses experimental technology that they have dubbed “smart salad dressing”.
It would work by releasing oil droplets into the water that are chemically programmed to react with carbon dioxide in the water, precipitating an artificial limestone carbonate.
Two British architects at University College, London, are among those behind the Future Venice project.
Rachel Armstrong, from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, explained the “protocell” technology.
She said: “This technology is based on the chemistry of oil and water and has the special property of transforming carbon dioxide into a limestone-like substance.”
The globules would form “solid pearls” of artificial limestone that could protect buildings from future damage, she argued.
Her colleague Prof Neil Spiller added: “The piles which support Venice are sinking into the lagoon like stiletto heels.”
If they could direct the oil to form carbonate deposits at their bases, this would distribute the load and slow or stop the sinking, he said.
The architects argue it could be an alternative to the current plan to install a series of steel floodgates to control tidal movements in the lagoon surrounding Venice.
Since being built the city, famous for its canals, has suffered from rising damp and the threat of being swamped by the sea. Scientists fear that rising sea levels caused by global warming will exacerbate the problem in coming decades.
However, Armstrong cautioned that the technology was only at the laboratory stage and would not be ready for three to five years.
The Future Venice project is being launched at a meeting in London on Friday.