Zahra Adibi (Graduate student at University of Kiel, Germany)
Nature has been the main inspiration source of human beings since prehistoric period. Mankind always analyze the anatomy of animals to explore the function of their organs and to learn how they can interact with their environment. This information can help researchers and scientists to develop for instance bio-sensors. In general, bio-inspired materials are man made structures that their principle of operation is mimicked from a natural source. This field has progressed very fast recently. The advancement of analytical tools and devices has allowed scientists to explore the mechanism of performance of biological system in more details and enables one to solve and reveal many mysterious secrets of nature.
For instance, the ability of Lizards to walk/stay on vertical walls was mysterious till the time that electron microscopy analysis of their feet clarified the reason of this amazing capability. It was found that many small nanometer size hairs on the soles of their feet provide them such a sticky properties that allows lizards to walk over very smooth vertical walls. This analysis inspired researchers to develop some very sticky materials through nano-structuring.
Nano technology has further pushed the front-line of bio-inspired materials field forward. For instance, mimicking the shiny colored outer skin of some fishes drawn the attention of researcher. Microscopical and optical analysis of the scales of these fishes revealed that arrangement of sub-micron structure of the fish scales dictate (by selective absorption and scattering of visible light) these amazing color.
Although the advancement of bio-inspiration has already led to development of several astonishing materials such as light harvesting photonic structure (inspired from photosynthesis in plants), there are still many unknown (less known) biological properties which need to be further explored such as “self-healing”. Mature understanding of the self-healing and implementation of its mechanism on synthetic materials could increase the life-time of materials and ultimately reduce the cost considerably.