Biological materials: Functional adaptations and bioinspired designs
Biological materials are typically multifunctional but many have evolved to optimize a chief mechanical function. These functions include impact or fracture resistance, armor and protection, sharp and cutting components, light weight for flight, or special nanomechanical/chemical extremities for reversible adhesive purposes. We illustrate these principles through examples from our own research as well as selected literature sources. We conduct this analysis connecting the structure (nano, micro, meso, and macro) to the mechanical properties important for a specific function. In particular, we address how biological systems respond and adapt to external mechanical stimuli. Biological materials can essentially be divided into mineralized and non-mineralized. In mineralized biological materials, the ceramics impart compressive strength, sharpness (cutting edges), and stiffness while the organic components impart tensile strength, toughness and ductility. Non-mineralized biological materials in general have higher tensile than compressive strength, since they are fibrous. Thus, the mineralized components operate optimally in compression and the organic components in tension. There is a trade-off between strength and toughness and the stiffness and density, with optimization. Mineralization provides load bearing capability (strength and stiffness) whereas the biopolymer constituents provide viscoelastic damping and toughness. The most important component of the nascent field of Biological Materials Science is the development of bioinspired materials and structures and understanding of the structure–property relationships across various length scales, from the macro-down to the molecular level. The most successful efforts at developing bioinspired materials that attempt to duplicate some of the outstanding properties are presented.