Research Overview

At the Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Bioinspiration we study the structure, performance and mechanics of biological materials using a wide range of experimental and modeling techniques. Focus is currently on deformation and fracture, but other functionalities such as self-healing are also studied. In parallel we design, optimize, fabricate and test new engineering materials inspired form nature. These materials possess new and attractive combinations of properties such as toughness, strength, stiffness and light weight. Other functionalities such as self-healing, adaptivity to stress or actuation and shape morphing can also be incorporated. Nature also show us how to make high-performance sustainable materials with a minimum amount of ingredients and at ambient temperatures and pressures, which can also be recycled an infinite number of times.

Structure & Mechanics of Natural Materials

High-performance natural materials combine properties which are traditionally incompatible in engineering materials: Seashells are simultaneously hard and tough, scaled skins and other natural armors provide a flexible yet hard protective layers, proteins can generate high toughness in extreme confinements. We are elucidating the micro-mechanisms behind the remarkable performance of these materials, using innovative combinations of small scale experiments, theoretical models, and computational models. We are also examining how natural materials can adapt their structure to chemical signals, generate force and even repair themselves. This research combines advanced mechanics of materials, biochemistry and mechanochemistry. Underlying this work is the question of how evolutionary pressures have shaped the natural materials of today. The answers can lead to new design paradigms for engineering materials. 

A set of 5 images. One is the inside of a shell, it is shiny and a pearl white. The second is a close up which shows grey rectangular objects stacked tightly together. Below those is a shell with a crack tip. The next image is a close up showing yellow and orange rectangular objects stacked tightly. The final image is a diagram showing the parts of the material.

Modeling, Fabrication & Testing of New Bio-inspired Materials

The remarkable properties of natural materials make them attractive as models and inspiration for engineering materials, but duplicating the sophisticated microstructures of natural materials presents significant challenges. We are addressing these challenges by developing a variety of innovative fabrication methods such as self-propagating high-temperature synthesis, chemical self-assembly and three-dimensional laser engraving. Our bio-inspired designs and innovative fabrication methods are now leading to entirely new materials. For example, we recently fabricated a new type of glass, inspired from seashells, which can deform and resist impacts 700 times better than regular glass. This new glass has applications in safety glasses and touch screens for electronic devices. We are also developing fish scale-inspired, light-weight and flexible protective skins, with applications in personal armor, sport equipment and flexible electronics. Our new type of bone graft material is simultaneously strong, biocompatible and degradable, and will be used for the treatment of segmental bone defects and for craniofacial reconstructions. To drive the development of our new materials forward I have been collaborating with biologists, chemists and medical doctors. I also recently initiated new partnerships with industry and defense to develop specific applications for our new materials.

A set of 5 images. The first shows a row of clear glass a little bit longer than a nickel. The second shows three rectangular patterns, the first two are black and gold, and the last has a rainbow filter over it. The second image shows a scale like texture with a pile of round gray shapes. The fourth image is black with bright colors in the center. The last image is a diagram of showing the strength of a material.

Current Projects

•    Mechanics of deformation and fracture of fish scales
•    Biological interfaces: the intrinsic toughness of high-performance proteins
•    New bioinspired strategies for toughened glasses and ceramics
•    High-impact resistant materials and structures
•    Design, fabrication and testing of architectured materials
•    Hard yet flexible protective systems inspired from fish scales and osteoderms
•    Bio-inspired bone graft materials 


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