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The Floating Forest That Could Protect Our Shorelines from the Elements

  • Publish Date: Posted over 2 years ago
  • Author: Jessica Tabinor

  • Engineers have proposed that a 'floating forest' could help protect our shorelines from corrosion

  • It will be made up of vertical plastic and concrete tubes standing 20 meters tall

One of the main challenges facing our shorelines is the damage that waves can create when coupled with heavy wind storms. Waves can erode the shorelines and destroy coastal facilities such as marinas. However, a newly-proposed ‘floating forest’ could help by blocking both the wind and the waves to protect our coastal areas.

The ‘floating forest’ concept has been designed by the University of Queensland’s Professor Chien Ming Wang and would measure approximately one kilometre in length (0.6 miles). As a starting point, it is believed that the structure would be anchored offshore in high-risk areas.

Professor Chien Ming Wang said:

"Engineers have already developed wave-breakers capable of reducing the height of waves, but there has been nothing until now to break the wind. We're the first ones to place a windbreak on top of the floating breakwater structure."

Unlike its name suggests, it will not be home to any trees, instead it will be made up of vertical plastic and concrete tubes standing 20 meters tall. One of its main features is its sloped concrete surface, allowing the waves to non-destructively dissipate their energy by flowing up into the structure.

The plastic and concrete tubes will be flexible to reduce the risk of them breaking. They will be stiff enough to disrupt the wind which will in turn reduce the speed of which the wind reaches the shore. Additionally, the incoming water would be able to flow up into each tube, further helping to dissipate the waves' energy.

The floating forest technology has been patented by the university, with hopes that it could someday be used in cyclone-prone countries such as Bangladesh, Mozambique, Taiwan and the Philippines. In the meantime, a scale model has been built for testing in U Queensland's wave tank.

(Images sourced via

Head of School of Civil Engineering Professor Simon Washington said the idea was an example of UQ engineers collaborating with industry to solve global challenges.  

“Researchers in our school working with our industry partners are generating some incredibly innovative research and ideas,” he said.

“The patent taken out by the researchers allows them to claim ownership of this idea and to work further on the invention, with the possibility of it being commercialised and shared with coastal communities around the world.”

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