Scientists have shown how it is possible to use biofilms as ‘construction workers’ to create structural templates for new materials that possess the properties of natural materials with findings published in journal Advanced Materials.
If we look at materials in nature like wood, bone, mother of pearl, or teeth, they have been optimized over millions of years via evolution according to the principle of adapted stability with the lowest possible weight. Mother nature has already provided us with the blueprints for many technical developments.
As the interface between biology and technology, bionics utilizes methods and systems found in nature to provide solutions to technical problems. When it was still limited to using natural shapes, e.g. as templates for development in the design of airplane wings or ship hulls, the problems remained manageable. However, imitating the material properties of natural construction materials is an entirely different story. This is because they are found in the inner structures, where fibers are linked to each other over several orders of magnitude and across various hierarchical levels.
In the new paper, researchers present a series of procedures from the field of biology that utilize light, heat, specially prepared substrates, and other stimuli to guide the direction of movement of microorganisms along very specific paths.
With the help of the algae, any number of templates can be created for a wide variety of applications, ranging from battery electrodes to new screen and display technologies to applications in medicine, such as replacement bone and tissue. Although the ability to grow complex microstructures such as entire components and other hierarchically structured materials is still a long way off in the future, it could soon become a tangible reality thanks to the basic research performed by the researchers at Straubing.