Theme BIOMIME - Functional Biology and Biomimetics

Context

Ecosystems with high biodiversity may be rich sources of bioinspired technologies–from nanostructure and the microstructure of animal and plant tissues right up to the “design” and functional biology of the whole organism. Our research also aims to explore fundamental questions concerning functional biology and biomechanics in a range of projects focusing on the ecology and evolution of plants. Our main objectives are to (1) develop and adapt new methods of analyzing the biophysical properties of plants; (2) characterize the traits and characteristics necessary for biomechanical modeling; (3) develop strategies for the transfer from biological to technological applications through industrial partnerships.

Scientific objectives

First, to develop new approaches for the study of plant functional traits, particularly in terms of biomechanical properties, for a better understanding of cause and effect interactions between the environment and the development of the whole plant. Second, to integrate and transfer knowledge of functional biology and biomechanics to biomimetics where knowledge of living organisms can be transferred to technical applications.

Approach

Plant biomechanics was recently identified as a promising new approach for the development of biomimetics research in France. The key steps we are developing include: (1) discovering and advancing knowledge of potential biological model systems; (2) developing collaborative networks for plant biomimetics and biomechanics in France; (3) establishing national and international industrial partnerships.
Our biomechanics research is carried out using a specialized technical platform specifically catering for biophysics, histology, morphometrics and image analysis. The equipment we use to measure the biophysical properties of plants is suitable for use both in the laboratory and in the field. Our main focus is on the biodiversity of plant growth forms, their ecology and evolution, particularly climbing plants of the tropical rainforest.

Expected results

Possible bioinspired applications based on the biomechanics of climbing plants include: (a) attachment systems based on hooks, tendrils and adaptive carrabiner-like structures found in climbing plants; (b) tubes, pipes and cable systems and applications based on climbing plant stems that are highly flexible and highly resistant to catastrophic mechanical failure. These two broad examples are only a small sample of the wide range of properties and structures potentially available in diverse tropical plants.

Major publications

All publications
  • Brancheriau L., 2014. An alternative solution for the determination of elastic parameters in free-free flexural vibration of a Timoshenko beam. Wood Science and Technology, 48: 1269-1279. [Editor link]
  • Granados Mendoza, C., Isnard, S., Charles-Dominique, T., Van den Bulcke, J., Rowe, N.P., Goetgebeur, P., Samain, M.S., 2014. Bouldering: an alternative strategy to long-vertical climbing in root-climbing hortensias. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 11(99): 1742-5662 [Editor link]
  • Rowe, N.P., Speck, T., 2014. Biomechanics of lianas, In: Schnitzer, S., Bongers, F., Burnham, R., Putz, F. (Eds.), The ecology of lianas, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Rowe, N.P., Paul-Victor, C., 2012. Herbs and secondary woodiness - keeping up the cambial habit. New Phytologist, 193: 3-5. [Editor link]
  • Martone, P.T., Boller, M.L., Burgert, I., Dumais, J., Edwards. J., Mach, K., Rowe, N.P., Rueggeberg, M., Seidel, R., Speck, T., 2010. Mechanics without muscle: biomechanical inspiration from the plant world. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 50: 888-907. [Editor link]

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