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Biomimetic Materials Research: What Can We Really Learn From Nature's Structural Materials?

Peter Fratzl

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Nature provides a wide range of materials with different functions and which may serve as a source of bio-inspiration for the materials scientist. The article takes the point of view that a successful translation of these ideas into the technical world requires more than the observation of nature. A thorough analysis of structure-function relations in natural tissues must precede the engineering of new bio-inspired materials. There are, indeed, many opportunities for lessons from the biological world: on growth and functional adaptation, about hierarchical structuring, on damage repair and self-healing. Biomimetic materials research is becoming a rapidly growing and enormously promising field. Serendipitous discovery from the observation of nature will be gradually replaced by a systematic approach involving the study of natural tissues in materials laboratories, the application of engineering principles to the further development of bio-inspired ideas and the generation of specific databases.