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Bio-Inspired Materials Leading To Greater Engineering

February 16, 2013

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Bio-inspired, man-made materials may one day offer up designs that are more lightweight, tougher, and stronger than other options out there. A team writing in the journal Science say they have identified characteristics of biological materials they think engineers will be able to emulate in future materials.

Two engineers at the University of California, San Diego examined three characteristics of biological materials, including spider silk, lobster and abalone shells, toucan beaks, and porcupine quills. They analyzed these materials to learn how they could lead to better body armor, lighter aircraft, and stronger, more flexible materials.

“An abalone doesn’t grow a shell overnight,” Joanna McKittrick said in a statement. However, using something like 3D printing, “you could build a material similar to the abalone shell using principles we learned from nature by printing layer upon layer of mineral deposits—and do it much faster than nature would.”

The team has been studying bio-inspired designs for over a decade using an array of advanced tools, such as X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy. They also developed tests of materials’ mechanical properties at the nanoscale in order to understand the structure of material found in animals and plants.

“Mother Nature gives us templates,” said McKittrick. “We are trying to understand them better so we can implement them in new materials.”

Read more: Engineering To Benefit From Bio-Inspired Materials – Science News – redOrbit.

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