Biomimetics enable the next generation of products

17 Jun, 2022

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Biomimetics is an innovation driver of the 21st century.

Biomimetics is an innovation driver of the 21st century.

Nature has developed a myriad of surfaces which are optimized for their specific environment. Taking inspiration from various effects such as the shark skin or lotus leaf, engineers are developing todays most advanced surfaces using biomimetic effects.

Natural surfaces as a blueprint for innovation

Curiosity has been ingrained in mankind since the dawn of time. It leads people to study their environment more closely and to draw conclusions that are significant. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, demonstrated outstanding curiosity by studying the flight of birds and designing the first flying machines based on it.

This principle of transferring natural phenomena into a technical context defines what we now call Bionik (German term). Bionik stands for the combination of biology and technology and encompasses all areas in which bio-inspired effects are tapped for advantage. In the English-speaking world, the term biomimetics is used synonymously.

Leonardo da Vinci was the first Bionik engineer to lay the foundation for something that still drives numerous engineers today.

We owe products such as the Velcro fastener, which was discovered and technically implemented by George de Mestral in the mid-20th century, to biomimetics. In the course of the constant pressure to innovate, the 21st century saw an explosive multiplication of technical developments that make use of biomimetics.

A well-known example is the drag-optimized swimsuit worn by Michael Phelps, which had an optimized surface structure based on sharkskin technology. This gave its wearer an almost unfair competitive advantage, enabling world record after world record to be broken in the 2008 Olympic Games of Beijing (China) [1].

Recent developments by BASF and Lufthansa Technik, for example, are even bringing the Sharkskin effect to the outer hull of cargo aircraft, making it easier to achieve sustainability goals by significantly improving fuel efficiency [2].

Probably the best-known nature-inspired phenomenon is the lotus effect, which is being considered for numerous applications in this context. In 2020, for example, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS and the Technical University of Dresden, together with Airbus, succeeded for the first time in transferring the lotus effect to airfoils using laser technology. In wind tunnel tests, they were able to demonstrate a variety of benefits, ranging from spontaneous ice shedding to significantly reduced heating power during technical deicing [3, 4].

But other biomimetic principles, such as the gecko foot for better gripping of objects or the moth-eye structure for reducing unwanted reflection on glass surfaces, are also finding their way into numerous technical areas.

All examples show that biomimetic principles are leading to a new generation of technical surfaces that have unique features.

Innovative product surfaces using laser-based biomimetics

Fusion Bionic, a spin-off of the Fraunhofer Institute for Materials and Beam Technology, was founded with the aim of channeling the enormous potential of biomimetic principles more quickly.

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By using a high-speed laser technology based on a proprietary Direct Laser Interference Patterning (DLIP) approach, various nature-inspired phenomena such as lotus effect and moth-eye structure can be addressed. This leads, for example, to improved glass surfaces on which water condenses only with great difficulty or reflection properties that can be specifically modified.

The special feature of Fusion Bionic's approach is the realization of nano- and microstructures that mimic surfaces found in nature. By using these special structures, functional surfaces can be made possible that offer an alternative to established processes such as coating or sandblasting in many branches of industry.

The biomimetic portfolio of products and services from Fusion Bionic was recently awarded the Innovation Award Laser Technology 2022, which is presented every 2 years by AKL e.V. and the European Laser Institute ELI.

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As one of the youngest participants in the Innovation Awards Laser Technology, Fusion Bionic was thus able to stand out against many other innovations and underline the importance of nature-inspired surfaces.

The future of functionalized surfaces will be largely determined by biomimetic principles and Fusion Bionic will help shape this path through their innovative technologies and surfaces.


[1] Sharkin swimming suit

[2] Sharkskin for drag reduction

[3] Lotus leaf effect for anti-icing on airplanes

[4] Scientific publication on anti-icing of aircraft surfaces

More by Fusion Bionic GmbH

Fusion Bionic is a solution provider for laser-generated functional surfaces. We are transferring bio-inspired principles such as the Lotus effect to technical surfaces by a high-speed laser process to enable high-performance surfaces with e.g. self-cleaning properties, improved contacting and more.

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