Biomimetics: ISSNIP Research Themes


Biomimetics is the concept of mimicking natural processes in form or function, using alternative technology. This includes the replication of biological processes in order to achieve higher efficiencies in production and performance. As natural processes are also energy limited, replicating such well advanced and proven techniques can lead directly to more efficient designs in solving existing problems. Technological advances are making biomimetic solutions more accessible, with the decreasing size and cost hardware, as well as the development of associated production techniques, required to practically implement such systems.

The application of biomimetic principles is not new. Early designs for air travel were based on observations of birds. The replication of natural materials such as silk in order to exploit the inherent strength and flexibility has been attempted for many years. The complexity of biological systems, however, is easily underestimated. Overlooking key factors in the construction and operation natural systems will severely impact on the success of the man-made model. The fundamental changes that are making biomimetic solutions more viable include: a far greater and ever increasing understanding of biological processes and the ability to more closely replicate natural structures and materials.

The Sample imageminiaturization of technology is another significant feature that can benefit from biomimetics. Sensing in nature occurs at the molecular level. The sensitivity observed by insects can be measured in terms of nanometer displacements.

There exist countless examples where naturally occurring materials are far more advanced than man-made materials. The composition of abalone shells has resulted in a material that is stronger and far less brittle than our most advance ceramics.     

Insights into how materials are naturally produced may provide valuable information in addition to understanding the composition of a given material.

The development of intelligent materials also finds roots in biomimetics. An intelligent material will have the ability to interact with an environment by responding in some way to a given stimulus. This may extended to included a natural decision making process based on multiple inputs or even learning capabilities.

An intelligent biomimetic structure would, in ideal circumstances, integrate all of these characteristics to design and assemble itself at a nano-scale level. Self assembling nano-layers of molecules are an example such technology. A structure might use this ability to compensate for deformations due to external pressures by rebuilding certain areas to maintain overall structural integrity.

Significance / Benefits

Sustainability of production practices through the modeling of natural fabrication processes. This is a departure from the conventional methodology of synthesizing natural materials using alternative and environmentally hazardous means.

Efficient resource utilization through the observation the ability of biological systems to produce superior materials and systems.

Miniaturization of materials and systems in order to unveil a host of new applications previously limited by the availability of adequately sized equivalents.

Integration of multiple technologies to operate in a cohesive and optimal manner.

Smart structures with the ability to autonomously adapt to environmental conditions and display learning capabilities.


  1. Adequate understanding of the complexity of natural systems and processes.
  2. New materials
  3. Construction techniques


The following are some existing research applications (refer links below):
Automatic Assembly: Engineering components and assemblies could be made more like organisms in there ability to self-assemble, thus having a significant impact upon production speed, capacity and complexity. Self-repairing abilities are an obvious side-effect of such abilities.

Microendoscopy: The ability to navigate micro or nano-structures through the human body has the potential to make a significant impact on modern medicine. Understanding the mobility and sensory systems of parasites, worms and insects, may provide the necessary design information to realize this objective.

Intelligent suspension for automotive applications: A basic tuned suspension unit requires a spring and damper unit. Tuning the suspension to a particular frequency is generally overlooked. Vertebrate muscle maybe mimicked to construct a high displacement and high damping spring system.

Gels: The principle of a fluid enclosed in a membrane being made to do useful work can be seen in our own muscular system, plants and in the skin of worms. Contracting the muscles in the body wall and increasing its internal pressure the worm is able to change shape. Controlling the swelling and contracting of a polymer gel appropriately encased, enables a system to work as an artificial muscle.

Smart fabrics: Analyzing the insulation layers of animals and other natural responses to temperature fluctuations may contribute to the development responsive clothing, with properties based on the state of activity of the wearer. This would reduce the number layers required by the wearer while remaining suitable for a variety of weather conditions.



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