Have you ever watched a time lapse of a pine cone as it dries or absorbs moisture? Pine cones, which are comprised of connected layers of material, change shape in response to moisture. The shape change occurs because of the alignment of fibers within the layers - one layer moves in one direction, bending the cone’s scales.

Inspired by pine cones, scientists have been developing similarly responsive materials. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have layered materials in precise directions to achieve different types of movements, like curling, bending, and twisting. By using an iron-oxide coating, they have found a way to create self-shaping objects that could be made from a variety of materials. There are potential industrial applications (ceramic parts that shape themselves rather than being pressed into shape), as well as medical applications (medical implants that take shape once they’ve reached proper destination inside the body).

As scientists learn more about how nature achieves certain properties or functions, they’re developing more precise and adaptable applications. What other recent biomimicry developments have you seen? How might they impact resource performance in your industry?

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