Nature is being used as a model for new technical developments in the field of bionics. Nature’s huge potential as a source of inspiration is systematically explored with the “BioPat” search tool. Developers at the Fraunhofer IAO combine their BioPat software with an analysis to detect bionics potential which is aimed at speeding the passage of interesting natural phenomena into engineering departments.
In January 2013, Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of the Environment Franz Untersteller officially opened a building of a special kind: the polar bear pavilion at the ITV Denkendorf. It is the first building to implement a pioneering technology that efficiently absorbs and stores heat. Inspired by polar bear skin, the building is the result of human ingenuity and high-tech materials.
Spiders are very agile, and some can even jump. They owe this capability to their hydraulically operated limbs. Researchers have now designed a mobile robot modeled on the same principle that moves spider legs. Created using a 3-D printing process, this lightweight can explore terrain that is beyond human reach.
Knowledge about the molecular organisation of structural and functional biological properties has led to the establishment of a new field of research molecular bionics. Everything that can be learnt from the macromolecular observation of interesting natural phenomena is complemented in this field by observations on the smallest i.e. molecular level. Processes and materials that have been optimised in the course of evolution are thus able to stimulate technical innovations on a new and much broader basis than previously possible.
An inconspicuous plant could soon embark on a career as a climate saver hairs on the surface of water ferns are to allow ships to have a 10 per cent decrease in fuel consumption. The plant has the rare ability to put on a gauzy skirt of air under water and keep this dress on for months. Researchers at the University of Bonn Rostock and Karlsruhe have now discovered how the fern does this.
ATGbiosynthetics GmbH based in Merzhausen close to Freiburg produces biological systems that can combine gene constituents following a construction kit principle. The company provides the pharmaceutical industry and basic researchers with products that have specifically chosen properties.
Boston ivy ivy and other woody vines have unusually strong adhesive forces. The question researchers are asking is can they transfer the surface adhesion principle of ivy to technical applications? The Plant Biomechanics Group led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck in Freiburg is working on one project that focuses on using nature as a model for intelligent adhesive bonds.
Dr. Bettina Prüm Dr. Holger Bohn and Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck from the Botanic Garden of the University of Freiburg have discovered the mechanisms that prevent beetles from sticking to specifically structured leaf surfaces. In cooperation with the Freiburg Centre for Interactive Materials and Bioinspired Technologies FIT the researchers are now planning to apply natures smart strategy to the design of structures that help prevent insect pests from entering areas such as cupboards and medicine cabinets where they are unwanted.
Dr. Stefan Schiller from the Center for Biological Systems Analysis (ZBSA) at the University of Freiburg combines synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry concepts in order to equip bacterial cells with organelle-like compartments. He has countless biotechnological applications in mind. In 2014, Schiller received the research prize “Next Generation of Biotechnological Methods – Biotechnology 2020+”. The prize is awarded every two years and provides around 3.4 million euros in funding for a period of five years.
Technical problems? Well, why not have a look at the solutions offered by nature? Prof. Dr. Peter M. Kunz from the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences did just this and was able to help the company LAMY produce special fountain pens and save time and money.
It is estimated that millions of birds die each year as the result of collisions with windows and other reflecting and transparent glass panes. Dr. Roland Kolbe, a researcher from the Baden-Württemberg city of Eningen unter Achalm has addressed this problem with the development of two products to prevent such collisions. The products are based on the differences in the physiology of vision between birds and human beings. Both products alert birds to the presence of glass obstacles without restricting people’s ability to see through the glass, making them excellent alternatives to the commonly used, but rather ineffective, black bird-of-prey silhouettes.
The biologist Prof. Dr. Marian Kazda from Ulm has worked on biogas research for many years. However, he occupies a particular niche in that he approaches the topic from the point of view of a problem-oriented ecologist. The 55-year-old is head of the Institute of Systematic Botany and Ecology at the University of Ulm and his specific field of research is plant ecology. It was his work on wetlands that first got him interested in biogas research.
There are research projects where the development of a hypothesis is as exciting as the final results. A project at the Ulm-based institute ILM that is being funded under the Molecular Bionics programme is one of such projects. This immediately becomes clear when Raimund Hibst ILM director and project coordinator refers to it as a risky and ambitious project. If everything goes according to plan the ILM will be able to improve photovoltaic plants and bioreactors create optical construction materials and provide protection against short-wave UV light.
Dr. Stefan Schiller from the Institute for Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Freiburg became interested in the diversity of molecular possibilities in nature as a student and is now a specialist in bionic chemistry and synthetic nanobiotechnology. Amongst other things his work involves the construction of complex protein machines that transfer signals protein networks for use in medicine and drug shuttles that enable the targeted application of drugs.
It’s a great idea: everyday products that can repair themselves. Although it’s still a pipedream, the foundations are already being laid in a series of investigations being carried out by Dr. Olga Speck from the University of Freiburg. Dr. Speck is a botanist who is studying wound-healing reactions in plants to try and find mechanisms that can be used as models for developing materials with “self-healing powers”.
The results of the feasibility studies funded under the Idea Competition in Biotechnology and Medical Technology were presented in the Haus der Wirtschaft in Stuttgart between 16th and 18th January 2012. Ten of the 42 project ideas were recommended for further funding.
What has emerged in nature in the course of evolution can now be used to break new ground in architecture thanks to computer-based simulations and manufacturing techniques. As part of a transregional collaborative research centre, German researchers have started to use this bionics approach to explore new designs and functional innovations.
The Baden-Württemberg construction sector is currently experiencing a similar boom to the one that occurred in 1996. Between January 2016 and January 2017, low interest rates and uninterrupted demand for housing has led to an increase in orders of almost 10%1. A shift from conventional building materials to biobased building materials and products would likely also support the transition to a bioeconomy in this economic sector. The Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart could help make this transition possible.
Accidental oil spills such as those following oil disasters need to be cleaned up as quickly as possible. Researchers from the KIT in Karlsruhe have now developed an environmentally friendly process that can eliminate oil spills effectively. Nanofur is a material that imitates the fine hairs of aquatic ferns and is capable of absorbing large amounts of oil within a relatively short time.
Glass fibre-reinforced plastics have become an integral part of our everyday life: in cars, playground slides, swimming pools or on facades, such composites are used wherever stability is required. Unfortunately, both production and disposal are far from sustainable. Scientists from the German Institutes for Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf have now developed an innovative material made from pure cellulose, which has practically the same basic mechanical properties as glass fibre-reinforced plastics, but can be produced simply and non-toxically, and is also fully recyclable.
Life can also be found in Arctic and Antarctic ice. Anique Stecher a biologist at Konstanz University is investigating the biodiversity in these areas using samples collected on board a research vessel and then analysing the data using special phylogenetic software. This provides her with a comprehensive inventory of Arctic and Antarctic organisms and with insights into their relationships with each other. The researchers findings make an important contribution to gaining an in-depth understanding of the studied ecosystems. She is also studying cold-adapted enzymes which have the potential to be used in foods and detergents amongst other things.
Wood pulp as well as hemp and flax are renewable raw materials that can be processed into fibres of a new performance class using innovative technologies. They are environmentally friendly and help to solve waste problems. Products and processes for these fibres of the future are being developed at the DITF Denkendorf. They are suitable for textile and technical applications.
The Institute of Textile Technology and Process Engineering Denkendorf ITV Denkendorf is Germanys largest and oldest textile research centre. Research is carried out in specialised laboratories and technical centres covering the entire range of textiles from raw materials to the final product both in basic as well as applied research.
Biogas has become an alternative and sustainable energy resource. In 2013, the 7,850 biogas plants in Germany – including 858 in Baden-Württemberg – produced enough biogas to cover around seven percent of Germany’s total electricity needs. Martin Falger, managing director of wusoa GmbH in Stuttgart, explained in an interview with Sanja Fessl (BIOPRO) why he believes that small-scale biogas plants have a promising future. They expand the biogas plant spectrum by enabling regions that do not have enough biomass to operate large biogas plants to benefit from this energy resource. Livestock farms in these regions also benefit from the presence of the small-scale plants.
The moss Physcomitrella patens has long since been one of several popular model organisms used in research. The Physcomitrella patens genome was sequenced in 2007. Comparative analyses with other plant species show why the relatives of the moss were able to colonise land approximately 500 million years ago the moss relatives developed a large number of mechanisms to protect them against drought and other stress factors which made them real survivalists.