The quest for more-efficient energy-related technologies necessitates the development of lightweight, high performance structural materials with exceptional strength and toughness. Unfortunately, these two properties tend to be mutually exclusive in most synthetic materials, and high strength is often associated with low fracture toughness (resistance to the initiation and growth of a crack).
Interestingly, nature has found a way to combine brittle minerals and organic molecules into hybrid composites with exceptional fracture toughness and structural strength. The notion of mimicking biological materials in the synthesis of new bio-inspired materials has generated enormous interest and significant advances have been achieved.
However, the fundamental toughening mechanisms acting at different structural length scales in biological and bio-inspired materials have not been well understood. Technically, the difficulty of understanding the unique mechanical properties of biological materials is largely due to their complex hierarchical structures and the nano-sized building blocks.
This project aims to develop nature-inspired composites of exceptional mechanical properties that push the known boundaries of engineering materials. The design utilises a newly developed technique to control the microstructures at different material length scales. Advanced material characterization and testing will be carried out to understand the structure-property relationships. The project is supported by Australian Research Council Discovery Project.
The expected outcomes are an innovative bio-inspired material design strategy that may underpin the creation of many novel high-performance composites of unmatched strength and toughness properties, and potential to support new applications and to value-add Australia’s materials manufacturing industry. The materials developed have demonstrated a great potential for applications in tissue engineering.
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