The level of control that organisms exercise over the materials properties of structural inorganic biomaterials is unparalleled in modern engineering. Even more tantalizing is the organisms’ ability to form multifunctional materials that are optimized to perform structural, optical, mechanical and other functions – almost unrelated from the engineering point of view.
Our studies suggest that these properties originate from a sophisticated structural design achieved by the interplay between inorganic minerals and organic biological macromolecules. Our research is aimed at studying biological composite materials and understanding how biology arranges simple minerals and polymers into complex architectures.
Among organisms that attract our attention are: deep-sea sponges that construct damage-resistant structural glasses; brittlestars with skeletons optimized for both mechanical and optical performance; a slimy biofilm that turns out to be one of the best liquid-repellent materials known.
Often nature’s solutions to engineering problems are so different from our conventional ways of thinking that the most fruitful way to investigate them is not immediately obvious.
We are therefore engaged in a continuous dialogue: we study the biological material itself to begin to understand its underlying principles, adapt these concepts to design a bio-inspired architecture, and then apply insights from the designed system to guide further investigation of the biological system.