Biomimetics: Creating Materials From Nature's Blueprints


In order to design a 21st-century, impact-resistant substance, materials scientist Mehmet Sarikaya of the University of Washington in Seattle finds inspiration in a 500-million-year-old feat of evolution--the shell of a present-day mollusk, the abalone.

Following blueprints drawn from analysis of the microarchitecture of the shell, Sarikaya and colleague Ilhan Aksay have manufactured a prototype material that mimics the shell's laminar, protection-providing structure.

Sarikaya is one of growing number of materials researchers involved in biomimicking, or biomimetics--the study of the structure and function of biological materials and systems as models for materials design. According to materials scientist Aksay, also from the University of Washington, about 500 scientists in the United States are involved in some aspect of biomimicking, although they might not identify their specialty as such.

What they have in common is looking at nature as a guide to create...

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