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Bio-inspired Hierarchical Super Nanomaterials (BIHSNAM)
Start date: Jan 1, 2012, End date: Dec 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes or graphene sheets represent the future of material science, due to their potentially exceptional mechanical properties. One great drawback of all artificial materials, however, is the decrease of strength with increasing toughness, and viceversa. This problem is not encountered in many biological nanomaterials (e.g. spider silk, bone, nacre). Other biological materials display exceptional adhesion or damping properties, and can be self-cleaning or self-healing. The “secret” of biomaterials seems to lie in “hierarchy”: several levels can often be identified (2 in nacre, up to 7 in bone and dentine), from nano- to micro-scale.The idea of this project is to combine Nature and Nanotechnology to design hierarchical composites with tailor made characteristics, optimized with respect to both strength and toughness, as well as materials with strong adhesion/easy detachment, smart damping, self-healing/-cleaning properties or controlled energy dissipation. For example, one possible objective is to design the “world’s toughest composite material”. The potential impact and importance of these goals on materials science, the high-tech industry and ultimately the quality of human life could be considerable.In order to tackle such a challenging design process, the PI proposes to adopt ultimate nanomechanics theoretical tools corroborated by continuum or atomistic simulations, multi-scale numerical parametric simulations and Finite Element optimization procedures, starting from characterization experiments on biological- or nano-materials, from the macroscale to the nanoscale. Results from theoretical, numerical and experimental work packages will be applied to a specific case study in an engineering field of particular interest to demonstrate importance and feasibility, e.g. an airplane wing with a considerably enhanced fatigue resistance and reduced ice-layer adhesion, leading to a 10 fold reduction in wasted fuel."
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