JON SULLIVAN/WIKICOMMONSThe goal of biomimicry is to discover the principles governing the organizational structure of biological materials and to implement them in the construction of high-performance plastics. Advancements in this branch of science, which attempts to “imitate life,” have been achieved both academically and in practical applications for industry, involving many fields of knowledge, such as materials engineering, robotics, fluid mechanics, chemistry and architecture. An example of a biomimetic-based solution is the lotus effect, named after a flower whose leaves are able to maintain their smooth surface because of microstructures that prevent water from being absorbed. When water comes into contact with the leaves, it flows over the structures and washes dirt away. The mechanism has been copied by the glass, fabrics, ceilings and roofing industries, to facilitate the removal of residues. Another example is the study of the microstructures of shells and teeth, for the manufacture of extremely durable materials. In laboratories, biomimicry linked to nanotechnology has contributed to the development of synthetic catalysts capable of transporting nutrients and performing biological reactions, functions that are carried out naturally by enzymes. The advantage of the process is that, unlike enzymes, the synthetic version can be manufactured in large quantities in the laboratory, thus allowing, for example, the manufacture of drugs and potentially even fuel cells.
Henry Eisi Toma, University of São Paulo
André Studart, Department of Materials ETH Zurich
Antônio C. Guastaldi, Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp)