Biomimetics as a tool for the development of new materials

Home News Biomimetics as a tool for the development of new materials

Living organisms have evolved well-adapted structures and materials over geological time through natural selection. Biomimetics has given rise to new technologies inspired by biological solutions at macro and nanoscales. Humans have looked at nature for answers to problems throughout our existence.

Nature has solved engineering problems such as self-healing abilities, environmental exposure tolerance and resistance, hydrophobicity, self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy.

Practical underwater adhesion is an engineering challenge since current technology is unable to stick surface strongly underwater because of barriers such as hydration layers and contaminants on surfaces. However, marine mussels can stick easily and efficiently to surfaces underwater under the harsh conditions of the ocean. They use strong filaments to adhere to rocks in the inter-tidal zones of wave-swept beaches, preventing them from being swept away in strong sea currents.

Morpho butterfly wings contain microstructures that create its coloring effect through structural coloration rather than pigmentation.

Mussel foot proteins attach the filaments to rocks, boats and practically any surface in nature including other mussels. These proteins contain a mix of amino acid residues which has been adapted specifically for adhesive purposes. Researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara borrowed and simplified chemistries that the mussel foot uses to overcome this engineering challenge of wet adhesion to create copolyampholytes, and one-component adhesive systems with potential for employment in nanofabrication protocols.

Spider web silk is as strong as the Kevlar used in bulletproof vests. Engineers could in principle use such a material, if it could be reengineered to have a long enough life, for parachute lines, suspension bridge cables, artificial ligaments for medicine, and other purposes. Other research has proposed adhesive glue from mussels, solar cells made like leaves, fabric that emulates shark skin, harvesting water from fog like a beetle, and more. Murray’s law, which in conventional form determined the optimum diameter of blood vessels, has been re-derived to provide simple equations for the pipe or tube diameter which gives a minimum mass engineering system. Aircraft wing design and flight techniques are being inspired by birds and bats.

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