Biomimetics is a toolbox that serves a broad range of research disciplines. We partner with teams who wish to leverage its outcomes and/or methods. Fields of application include medicine, chemistry, physics, engineering, computer science, but also architecture, design, and start-up projects.
Biomimetics and Science
At its source is a technical excellence, which took millions of years of trial and error to develop. For this and other reasons, taking a systematic look at nature's solution space reveals unexpected and computation-intensive answers to technical conundrums. While such paradigm changes are possible, they tend to be comparatively rare.
That is why we promote this approach for its complementary uses: biomimetics supports innovative concepts, which unlock incremental improvements and challenge conventional thinking, generate ideas reliably, and set technical performance benchmarks. We provide practical support in a number of ways (see below). When it comes to defining and developing technical and design solutions, we are the TUM community’s biomimetic partner of choice.
Natural species face many challenges to survive in the wild, and without mission-critical, technical capabilities, many would go extinct. Were it not for its superhydrophobic (non-wettable) leaves, the lotus plant, for example, would be open to chemical deterioration from dust particles and attack from fungi/ viruses / bacteria.
Given our planet’s biodiversity (> 3 million species), the scope for solutions is quite broad. Nature features sophisticated sensors, structural colour, algorithms, lightweight construction, systems designs, environmentally friendly antifreeze, advanced fluid dynamics, thrust reversal, satellite navigation, etc.
Some technical challenges are better suited to a biomimetic approach than others. Also, finding suitable candidates among millions of species calls for a structured approach. Biomimetics helps translate your technical objectives into meaningful biological keywords which can form the basis of a search. This so-called top-down method appears suitable for engineering teams, who wish to resolve a specific technical challenge. We are presently testing this approach at TUM.
Conversely, a biomimetic project may originate from the observation of an unconventional shape, behaviour, or effect in nature. In this bottom-up approach (identify, confirm and study the biological mechanism), botanists, zoologists, and morphologists can provide pointers to help identify a project opportunity.
Each of these two approaches has a role to play. In the case of the lotus plant, the bottom-up gamble paid off. The initial publication ranks among the most widely cited scientific papers, based on the discovery a range of commercial applications have been developed, patented, and commercialised, not to mention the enduring technical interest in surface structures that followed in its wake.
Projects can involve any combination of biologists, physicists, engineers (electrical/mechanical/chemical/construction), computer scientists, physicians, architects, designers and even aspiring start-up teams.
Fostering Biomimetics at TUM
Your success is our success. We support teams and individuals at any level of biomimetic proficiency either indirectly (information, tools, methods), or operationally (idea generation, workshop/moderation, finding suitable cooperation partners) and according to our own, growing competencies. We are motivated by pragmatism in order move projects forward.
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Biotemplating1), synthetic biology, living bridges (made of plants), and bioprospecting 2) operate at the intersection of bioscience and the technical disciplines, as does biophlic design in architecture. In 1098, 1913, 1931, 1963, 2000, 2001, and 2009, the Nobel prize for medicine was awarded to scientists who had studied natural species. The starfish and jellyfish, alone, contributed to two Nobel prizes for medicine, each.
Gwillem Mosedale, MSc, MBA/MA
Professor Dr. Harald Luksch
Munich School of BioEngineering
Tel. +49 (0)173 85 22 376
Chair of Zoology
Tel. +49 (0)8161 71 2801
1) the search for new material properties via the selective substitution of industrial substances for biological matter within the preserved structural organisation of the original natural material
2) e.g. the green fluorescent protein molecular marker from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria; insect-born yeasts as a way to flavour beer; wax added to metal foams for its heat-storing capacity (wax is used to store heat in bee hives), or the first crystalline vaterite sample from the sea squirt Herdmania momus