Research team awarded $7.5 million Department of Defense award

Pablo Zavattieri
Pablo Zavattieri
Associate Prof. Pablo Zavattieri and his collaborators selected for $7.5 million grant to study more than 20 organisms to develop strong, tough materials based on their design structures.

Associate Professor Pablo Zavattieri, along with a team of researchers led by a University of California, Riverside professor of engineering have been selected to receive a $7.5 million Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant to uncover fundamental design rules and develop simple and basic scientific foundations for the predictable design of light-weight, tough and strong advanced materials inspired by a wide diversity of structures from plants and animals, including the mantis shrimp, toucan and bamboo.

The multi-university team involves top researchers from the University of California (Riverside, Berkeley, and San Diego) Northwestern University, and Purdue University.

With the funding the researchers will study more than 20 organisms, including mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, insects and plants. Examples include: light-weight, tough and durable materials with cellular structures such as the stem of bamboo; the beak of a toucan; layered structures from shells of marine snails and antlers from mammals; twisted plywood structures found in crustacean structures such as the club of mantis shrimp; and insect cuticles.

These structures are particularly interesting because they are composed of relatively simple biological materials such as keratin found in fingernails, yet display incredible mechanical performance. The team will also reach back in history, looking at dynamic evolutionary processes such as the structure of the extinct trilobite, which existed for more than 200 million years by adapting to its environment.

The research program utilizes four interwoven thrusts, including the ultrastructural and mechanical investigation of these organisms, development of mathematical models of their structures and new design, fabrication of biomimetic structures that emulate features found in both natural systems and theory-based designs in order to underpin their tough, strong structures. Finally, the team will conduct comparative evolutionary analyses to pinpoint design principles that are unique and those, which have arisen convergently.

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