As you may have already noticed, here on our blog we’ve brought you a fair number of stories about how nature – and more specifically the animal kingdom – is providing a source of inspiration for an array of inspiring engineering feats.
But not to be outdone, plants are now getting in on the act too. That’s right, engineers are now looking to plants in order to perfect their designs – and trust us, there no denying that this is a pretty smart move.
A Closer Look
Researchers are taking a closer look at the complex structure that make up plants in a bid to develop new, more advanced engineering materials.
More specifically, a team of researchers from the Plant Biomechanics Group at the University of Freiburg, in Germany have developed a new magnetic resonance imaging technique that has enabled them to visualize the junction between branches and stems in plants – also known as ramifications.
In particular, the team were hoping to discover exactly how the vascular structures within these ramifications respond under stress.
By comparing 3D images of vascular bundles in both unloaded and mechanically loaded ramifications it's hoped that the team will be able to better understand the importance of these bundles and other tissues in biomechanics.
What’s more this method could also be used in the future to help optimize branched, fibre-reinforced light-weight components. As such, this technology and the insights learned from it could have important implications for fields as diverse as the aerospace and sports equipment industries, which rely heavily on the use of lightweight high-load bearing materials.
The technique is not ready to be fully implemented just yet, but it's hoped that in the near future it will prove to be of great importance in the field of biomimicry – so watch this space!
The Lotus Effect
Remarkably, this isn’t the only example of how plants are helping to revolutionise the engineering field. Engineers have already taken inspiration from the lotus plant to mimic what is known as nature's lotus effect.
If you’ve ever wondered why the leaves of a lotus plant are always so clean, it’s because they have special hydrophobic – water repelling – characteristics, referred to as the lotus effect.
If you're wondering what makes this possible, it’s because the leaves of a lotus plant are bumpy and this causes water to bead and pick up surface contaminants in the process.
This water then rolls off taking the water with it – pretty neat right! Inspired by this, engineers have developed ways of chemically treating the surface of materials such as metals and plastics to evoke the same effect.
As you can imagine, the applications of this technology are pretty much endless, and you can expect to hear a lot more about materials inspired by this – who have enduring water repellent properties – in the future!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this latest insight into the wonderful world of biomimicry. Who knows what this fascinating field will reveal next!
Here At European Springs we’re passionate about all kinds of engineering and love to share incredible stories such as this with you. All of our spring products – including our torsion springs- are the work of a lot of clever design and engineering and as such we like to think that they are an innovation in their own right too!
Want to know more about our products and services? Then simply contact us our friendly team today, by giving us a call on +44 (0) 208 663 1800 and we will be happy to answer any questions that you might have.