Nature-Inspired Materials

Nature-Inspired Materials

Exciting times are ahead following the announcement that the EPSRC are funding a new Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering at UCL. Evolution over the eons has made Nature a treasure trove of clever solutions to sustainability, resilience, and ways to efficiently utilize scarce resources. The Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering will draw lessons from nature to engineer innovative solutions to our grand challenges in energy, water, materials, health, and living space. Going beyond using nature as an analogy or the simple imitation of natural processes out of context, researchers at the Centre aim to uncover the fundamental mechanisms underlying desirable natural systems traits and apply these mechanisms to the design and synthesis of man-made systems.

To begin with, researchers will focus on three nature-inspired core themes:

  • Hierarchical Transport Networks: this strand of research will explore the way natural systems move seamlessly between microscopic and macroscopic scales, for example in trees, lungs and the circulatory system.
  • Force Balancing: this strand examines the balanced use of fundamental forces by natural entities like protein channels.
  • Dynamic Self-Organisation: this strand will explore the creation of robust, adaptive and self-healing communities thanks to collective cooperation and the emergence of complex structures out of much simpler individual components, for example in bacterial communities.

Technologies will be developed in response to on these core themes, including robust, high-performance, lung-inspired fuel cells with greatly reduced amount of precious catalysts and membranes for water desalination inspired by the mechanism of biological cell membranes.

The Centre will be directed by Prof. Marc-Olivier Coppens, Ramsay Memorial Professor and Head of Chemical Engineering at UCL. The Institute of Making will be a key research partner in this project, providing materials research and prototype construction. An interdisciplinary team of experts from around UCL will also be involved, with researchers from the Bartlett, Biochemical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Science, Genetics, Evolution and the Environment and Mechanical Engineering. The Centre for Nature-Inspired Engineering will also act as a hub for involving industrial partners and other researchers beyond UCL. 

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This research is funded by:

Nature-Inspired Materials