Biological Engineering Principles

Kumar K, Liu J, Christianson C, Ali M, Tolley MT, Aizenberg J, Ingber DE, Weaver JC, Bertoldi K. A Biologically Inspired, Functionally Graded End Effector for Soft Robotics Applications. Soft Robotics [Internet]. 2017;4 (4) :317-323. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Soft robotic actuators offer many advantages over their rigid counterparts, but they often are unable to apply highly localized point loads. In contrast, many invertebrates have not only evolved extremely strong ‘‘hybrid appendages’’ that are composed of rigid ends that can grasp, puncture, and anchor into solid substrates, but they also are compliant and resilient, owing to the functionally graded architecture that integrates rigid termini with their flexible and highly extensible soft musculatures. Inspired by the design principles of these natural hybrid appendages, we demonstrate a synthetic hybrid end effector for soft-bodied robots that exhibits excellent piercing abilities. Through the incorporation of functionally graded interfaces, this design strategy minimizes stress concentrations at the junctions adjoining the fully rigid and soft components and optimizes the bending stiffness to effectively penetrate objects without interfacial failure under shear and compressive loading re- gimes. In this composite architecture, the radially aligned tooth-like elements apply balanced loads to maximize puncturing ability, resulting in the coordinated fracture of an object of interest.

Li L, Kolle S, Weaver JC, Ortiz C, Aizenberg J, Kolle M. A highly conspicuous mineralized composite photonic architecture in the translucent shell of the blue-rayed limpet. Nat. Commun. [Internet]. 2015;6 :6322. Full TextAbstract
Many species rely on diverse selections of entirely organic photonic structures for the manipulation of light and the display of striking colours. Here we report the discovery of a mineralized hierarchical photonic architecture embedded within the translucent shell of the blue-rayed limpet Patella pellucida. The bright colour of the limpet’s stripes originates from light interference in a periodically layered zig-zag architecture of crystallographically co-oriented calcite lamellae. Beneath the photonic multilayer, a disordered array of light-absorbing particles provides contrast for the blue colour. This unique mineralized manifestation of a synergy of two distinct optical elements at specific locations within the continuum of the limpet’s translucent protective shell ensures the vivid shine of the blue stripes, which can be perceived under water from a wide range of viewing angles. The stripes’ reflection band coincides with the spectral range of minimal light absorption in sea water, raising intriguing questions regarding their functional significance.
Li L, Connors MJ, Kolle M, England GT, Speiser DI, Xiao X, Aizenberg J, Ortiz C. Multifunctionality of chiton biomineralized armor with an integrated visual system. Science [Internet]. 2015;350 (6263) :952-956. Full TextAbstract
Nature provides a multitude of examples of multifunctional structural materials in which trade-offs are imposed by conflicting functional requirements. One such example is the biomineralized armor of the chiton Acanthopleura granulata, which incorporates an integrated sensory system that includes hundreds of eyes with aragonite-based lenses. We use optical experiments to demonstrate that these microscopic lenses are able to form images. Light scattering by the polycrystalline lenses is minimized by the use of relatively large, crystallographically aligned grains. Multiscale mechanical testing reveals that as the size, complexity, and functionality of the integrated sensory elements increase, the local mechanical performance of the armor decreases. However, A. granulata has evolved several strategies to compensate for its mechanical vulnerabilities to form a multipurpose system with co-optimized optical and structural functions.
Mayzel B, Aizenberg J, Ilan M. The Elemental Composition of Demospongiae from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aqaba. PLoS ONE [Internet]. 2014;9 (4) :e95775. Full TextAbstract

Trace elements are vital for the growth and development of all organisms. Little is known about the elemental content and trace metal biology of Red Sea demosponges. This study establishes an initial database of sponge elemental content. It provides the necessary foundation for further research of the mechanisms used by sponges to regulate the uptake, accumulation, and storage of metals. The metal content of 16 common sponge species was determined using ICP measurements. A combination of statistical methods was used to determine the correlations between the metals and detect species with significantly high or low concentrations of these metals. Bioaccumulation factors were calculated to compare sponge metal content to local sediment. Theonella swinhoei contained an extremely high concentration of arsenic and barium, much higher (at least 200 times) than all other species and local sediment. Hyrtios erecta had significantly higher concentration of Al, Cr, Fe, Mn, Ti and V than all other species. This is due to sediment accumulation and inclusion in the skeleton fibers of this sponge species. Suberites clavatus was found to contain significantly higher concentration of Cd, Co, Ni and Zn than all other species and local sediment, indicating active accumulation of these metals. It also has the second highest Fe concentration, but without the comparably high concentrations of Al, Mn and Ti that are evident in H. erecta and in local sediment. These differences indicate active uptake and accumulation of Fe in S. clavatus, this was also noted in Niphates rowi. A significantly higher B concentration was found in Crella cyatophora compared to all other species. These results indicate specific roles of trace elements in certain sponge species that deserve further analysis. They also serve as a baseline to monitor the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on Eilat’s coral reefs.

Monn MA, Weaver JC, Zhang T, Aizenberg J, Kesari H. New functional insights into the internal architecture of the laminated anchor spicules of Euplectella aspergillum. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. [Internet]. 2015;112 (16) :4976-4981. Publisher's VersionAbstract
To adapt to a wide range of physically demanding environmental conditions, biological systems have evolved a diverse variety of robust skeletal architectures. One such example, Euplectella aspergillum, is a sediment-dwelling marine sponge that is anchored into the sea floor by a flexible holdfast apparatus consisting of thousands of anchor spicules (long, hair-like glassy fibers). Each spicule is covered with recurved barbs and has an internal architecture consisting of a solid core of silica surrounded by an assembly of coaxial silica cylinders, each of which is separated by a thin organic layer. The thickness of each silica cylinder progressively decreases from the spicule’s core to its periphery, which we hypothesize is an adaptation for redistributing internal stresses, thus increasing the overall strength of each spicule. To evaluate this hypothesis, we created a spicule structural mechanics model, in which we fixed the radii of the silica cylinders such that the force transmitted from the surface barbs to the remainder of the skeletal system was maximized. Compared with measurements of these parameters in the native sponge spicules, our modeling results correlate remarkably well, highlighting the beneficial nature of this elastically heterogeneous lamellar design strategy. The structural principles obtained from this study thus provide potential design insights for the fabrication of high-strength beams for load-bearing applications through the modification of their internal architecture, rather than their external geometry.