News and Events
New Dimensions in Colour
Some of the most vibrantly coloured creatures in the animal kingdom don’t owe their amazing colours to pigment. Instead, they cover themselves with microscopic structures that fine tune the way they reflect light. Now, these animals are inspiring a new generation of nanotechnology....10 December 2019 News
Engagement in Teaching
Our initiative will soon collide with the teaching/learning activities of the Melbourne School of Design, with a first Architecture Design Studio (CDE) being planned for Semester 1-2020....1 December 2019 News
Workshop: BioInspired Advanced Materials
We backup up Dr. Vignolini’s public lecture the following day, with our second innovation workshop, this time around the theme of BioInspired Advanced Materials....9 November 2019 Events
Public Lecture by Dr Silvia Vignolini: Making Colours with your Five a Day
Our inaugural public lecture was held on the 7th of November 2019, presented by invited speaker, Dr. Silvia Vignolini from Cambridge University....8 November 2019 Events
Science Alumni Event, Singapore
For the Science Faculty’s inaugural alumni event on 7th August 2019 in Singapore, the BioInspiration HRI was the centrepiece....8 August 2019 Events
Science Winter Twilight Cocktail Reception
With a spotlight on interdisciplinary collaboration, our BioInspiration HRI was showcased in a special floor talk by Associate Professor Devi Stuart-Fox, Co-Chair of the initiative...3 August 2019 Events
Workshop: BioInspired Design in Architecture
On the 25th of June 2019, we held our first invitation-only innovation workshop on Bioinspired Design in Architecture....25 June 2019 Events
‘Evolution Nailed It’ Seed Funding Competition
The BioInspiration Seed Funding Competition is designed to have teams develop creative, nature-inspired solutions to global/ practical/ human technological and design challenges....3 May 2019 News
HRI Launch Event
The BioInspiration HRI was launched at breakfast event on the 1st of May 2019, opened by Prof Laura Parry, Assoc. Dean of Research, Faculty of Science....2 May 2019 Events
BioInspiration is an approach to innovation: principles underpinning biological systems are applied creatively to human technological and design challenges. Nature represents a vast repository of sustainable solutions, fine-tuned over millions of years of evolution. As global challenges become more complex and our capabilities more sophisticated, we are increasingly drawing inspiration from biological systems to find new solutions to a wide range of problems. This requires collaboration between biologists and practitioners in diverse fields, such as physics, chemistry, materials science, engineering and architecture.
The BioInspiration Hallmark Research Initiative is funded by the University of Melbourne to enhance innovation and impact by enabling convergence between the biological and physical sciences, engineering and design. The Initiative brings together researchers from the Faculty of Science (BioSciences, Chemistry and Physics), the Melbourne School of Engineering, and the Melbourne School of Design.
We work with a range of research institutes and industry partners to find bioinspired solutions to a broad range of problems in:
- Bioinspired nano-optics and materials
- Bioinspired chemical sensors
- Bioinspired design in architecture.
The BioInspiration Hallmark Research Initiative supports a range of research and innovation-enabling activities including workshops, public events and a seed-funding scheme.
Banner image source: Pixabay
Devi’s research group focuses on animal coloration, including pigments, structural coloration, and near-infrared properties. She is interested in the adaptive value of animal coloration and its diverse applications.
Mark’s research group focuses on chemical sensing in insects. They have explored the efficacy of moth antennae as chemical sensors using detailed 3D models and CFD to simulate the flow and capture of pheromones.
Academic Convenor (ABP)email@example.com
Alberto is an architect with a range of research interests in the fields of computational and structural design. He is interested in further developing computational design tools based on algorithms developed to describe biological processes.
Katrina is an evolutionary ecologist in Devi Stuart-Fox’s group. Katrina’s research focuses on animal visual systems, and pigmentary and structural colouration.
Steering committee (Alphabetical)
Professor Kenneth Crozier, Physics, and Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Ken’s research interests are in nano- and micro-optics, with an emphasis on plasmonics for surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy and optical forces, optofluidics and semiconducting nanowires.
Dr Daniel Heath, Biomedical Engineering
Daniel Heath’s research focuses on developing next generation biomaterials. He has specific interest in developing biomaterials with improved blood-material interactions to reduce failure of medical devices such as vascular grafts and stents.
Dr James Hutchison, Chemistry
James works closely with members of the CoE in Exciton Science. His research focuses on polariton-mediated light and heat energy transfer in molecular systems, to improve the efficiency of solar cells and chemical catalysis.
Dr Chris Jensen, Architecture, Building and Planning
Chris has extensive experience as a sustainability consultant on a wide range of projects, from commercial greenstar-rated office buildings, to energy modelling in Antarctica. His research interests are focussed on the passive performance of buildings and the influence of both architecture and construction, often with reference to European trends and systems.
Professor Brendon McNiven, Architecture, Building and Planning
Brendon has 30 years industry experience in Architectural Engineering. He has worked in lead roles on internationally notable projects, including The Millennium Wheel in the UK, The Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, and the Melbourne Star here in Melbourne.
Professor Ann Roberts, Physics
Ann is an optical physicist with diverse interests including development of nanophotonic and plasmonic devices, metamaterials, nanoscale antennas, and nanostructured films for optical document security. Her research group also develops novel microscopic and imaging techniques for non-destructive examination of specimens such as live cells, photonic devices and cultural materials.
Dr Wallace Wong, Chemistry
Wallace is a chief investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science (ACEx). His research focuses on functional organic materials with applications in solar energy harvesting, biological imaging and chemical sensing.
Affiliated Researchers (Alphabetical)
Mr Dingwen ‘Nic’ Bao, RMIT University
Nic is a PhD Candidate in Architectural Engineering. He is a Registered Architect in Australia who completed his Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne and Bachelor of Architecture at RMIT University. Over the past six years, his research work, teaching and architectural practice explore the design methodologies that established a complementary relationship between natural rules, topological optimization, behavioral algorithms, architectural design and additive manufacturing.
Dr Joe Berry, Chemical Engineering
Joe’s research group focuses on development and application of numerical models to solve complex, multi-disciplinary problems, including droplet coalescence and breakup, drag reduction in turbulent flows, and chemical flow dynamics. Many of these problems are common to both biological and artificial chemical sensors.
Professor Ray Dagastine, Chemical Engineering
Ray’s research interests are in the area of particulate and droplet interfacial phenomena, emulsion stability and deformable surfaces. He is a leading researcher in developing experimental methods and theoretical analytical tools to study interaction forces between deformable liquid-liquid interfaces using both optical techniques and atomic force microscopy.
A/Prof Adrian Dyer, RMIT University
Adrian Dyer is a visual ecologist who studies how vision has evolved in complex environments to efficiently solve problems. The main model investigated is bee and flower (pollinator-plant) interactions where individual bees must orientate over relatively large distances to then correctly identify small but highly rewarding target flowers. Modelling of these “bee-inspired” rules provides novel solutions for AI, and an improved understanding of how to efficiently use bees as pollinators in natural, agricultural and urban environments.
Dr Giorgio Marfella, Architecture, Building and Planning
Giorgio is an expert in tall building and facade construction technology, with over a decade of industry experience in those fields as a practicing architect. He researches evolutionary and disruptive processes of innovation generated by building materials over time, including glass, concrete and engineered wood products.
A/Prof Janet McGaw, Architecture, Building and Planning
Janet McGaw is an Associate Professor in Architectural Design. She is a qualified architect and has a PhD by Creative Works from the University of Melbourne. Her research work, teaching and creative practice investigate ways to make urban space more equitable and sustainable. Over the past four years she has experimented with a variety of biological materials including mycelium, kelp and flax.
Dr Peter Sherrell, Chemical Engineering
Peter’s research interests are in the chemical engineering and assembly of 2D-materials, designing new electrode geometries for energy conversion and storage devices. He is currently focusing on enhancing the light absorbance of photo-catalyst assemblies drawing from natural and synthetic inspirations.
Dr Casey Visintin, BioSciences
Casey Visintin is trained as both an architect and wildlife conservationist and his research explores impacts of the built environment on ecological systems. He develops quantitative models to perform risk assessment and support environmental decision making. His work draws from several areas of expertise including species distribution modelling, transportation modelling, risk theory, data science, wildlife management and conservation planning.
Bioinspired research is rooted in observations of nature as a source of inspiration. This can be applied to any area of innovation, including the development of new materials, devices, technology and structures, and processes. However, the BioInspiration Hallmark Research Initiative has initially identified three key research themes that leverage existing research strengths.
Bioinspired Nano-optics and Materials
Biological structures are increasingly the source of blueprints and inspiration to solve complex challenges in photonics and materials science.Natural structures such as beetle cuticles and butterfly wing scales have inspired the development of many new and improved functional materials. These include anti-reflection coatings to improve the efficiency of solar cells, anti-counterfeiting technologies (e.g. metallic holograms on credit cards and banknotes), and optical devices that focus or polarise light.
- Associate Professor Devi Stuart-Fox, BioSciences
- Professor Ann Roberts, Physics
- Professor Ken Crozier, Physics, and Electrical and Electronic Engineering
- Dr James Hutchison, Chemistry
- Dr Daniel Heath, Biomedical Engineering
Bioinspired Design in Architecture
In nature, an extraordinary diversity of structural forms is achieved with a minimum inventory of components and materials. The search for optimal structural forms, materials and designs inspired by nature has its origins in the early 20th century. Examples of bioinspired materials, structures and surfaces include biomimetic self-repairing structural materials, bioinspired (self-)adaptive adhesion systems, and (self-)adaptive biomimetic facade shading system, Flecton. Bioinspiration is also an emerging area of basic and cognitive research activity associated with design thinking by analogy in architecture, engineering and industrial design.
- Professor Mark Elgar, BioSciences
- Professor Brendon McNiven, Melbourne School of Design
- Dr Alberto Pugnale, Melbourne School of Design
- Dr Giorgio Marfella, Melbourne School of Design
- Dr Chris Jensen, Melbourne School of Design
Bioinspired Chemical Sensors
Animals have evolved a remarkable diversity of mechanisms that allow them to detect light, sound and odours, and these sensors have already inspired numerous innovations in sensor technologies.
- Dr Wallace Wong, Chemistry
- Professor Mark Elgar, BioSciences
Bioinspired Nano-optics and Materials (University of Illinois and Beckman Institute)
Bioinspired Design in Architecture (Alberto Pugnale)
Bioinspired Chemical Sensors: (Pixabay)
Our seed funding scheme has been framed as an innovation competition. In 2019, there were 10 applications; four of which with members who participated in the Bioinspired Design in Architecture workshop held in June. The top three submissions each received Seed Funding of $10,000 – described below, in no particular order:
Taking inspiration from insect armours to fabricate stronger materials
Insect exoskeletons can be unbelievably tough for their size. One of the secrets to this toughness is that they are not uniform – they have gradients in the material properties which enable them to be both very strong, and resistant to stress cracking. Many man-made structural materials do not achieve that same balance of properties. The goal of the project is to design and fabricate a composite that possesses these two complementary features: (i) high load-carrying capacity and (ii) high damage-resistance. To do this, they will simulate, optimize and fabricate materials with graded properties, inspired by insects. This insect-inspired composite is expected to provide a better solution than commonly-used plastic-based materials that have long been used for safety equipment in construction sites and the automotive industry.
Coordinating Investigator: Dr Amanda Franklin
Develop a sustainable composite for building materials – using mushrooms
Current cladding sandwich panels are generally made with aluminum and synthetic materials. On the one hand, these provide good thermal insulation and lightness at low cost and quick installation time. But these panels have a large carbon footprint among other limitations. Mycelium – the vegetative network of hyphae or fibres from which mushrooms flower – has properties that are compatible with those of synthetic sandwich panels: it is porous, hard, and lightweight. Mycelium’s other great advantage is that it is quick and easy to grow in any size and shape, and it is biodegradable.
At present, mycelium has been commercialised for use in packaging and interior building linings and fittings. But it has not yet been developed into a viable composite system for use in exterior environments. Can we harness the power of Mycelium to devise more sustainable technology for our house cladding? Can this technology innovation inspire more sustainable circular economy models in the building industry? This project will explore these possibilities.
Coordinating Investigator: A/Prof Janet McGaw
Super-iridescent, strong and beautiful materials inspired by the most successful animal on earth: Beetles
Excluding bacteria, almost one quarter of all living creatures on Earth are beetles. They are quite simply the most successful group of animals on the planet. A key contributor to this success is the strong and visually striking exoskeleton including the shell that protects the beetles’ wings. These shells create diverse visual effects by using nanostructured thin films to manipulate light. Similar films produced using advanced industrial processes are widely used in a broad range of coatings, security features and sensors. This project aims to understand the optical properties of microscopic twisted features in the beetle shell. The team will uncover the complex light-matter interactions influencing the appearance of the beetle shell. Their goal is to create a novel class of super-iridescent coatings that can be produced using industrially scalable and environmentally sustainable methods and materials – inspired by beetles.
Coordinating Investigator: Prof Ann Roberts
There are a number of ways to engage with the BioInspiration Hallmark Research Initiative, from individuals to corporations, in a range of capacities:
The BioInspiration HRI brings together leading researchers from across the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Science (comprising BioSciences, Chemistry and Physics), Melbourne School of Engineering, and Melbourne School of Design. A key objective of the Initiative is to enhance and tailor research impact by using sustainable biological systems and principles to find new solutions to technological and design challenges. We have close ties with the Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, which enables access to extensive infrastructure for materials synthesis, materials characterisation and device fabrication. Our researchers also have links to the material science research community, including the Materials Characterisation and Fabrication Platform, which can facilitate rapid development and help accelerate research outcomes towards commercialisation.
For more information regarding research collaboration opportunities, contact Dr. Alberto Pugnale, firstname.lastname@example.org
An Affiliated Researcher has research interests and experience aligned with the BioInspiration HRI research themes, and can both support and benefit from the Initiative. They can capitalise on the growing network of interdisciplinary researchers, collaborators and industry, as well as contribute to these areas. Affiliated Researchers will be profiled on the HRI website.
For more information regarding becoming an Affiliated Researcher, contact Dr. Alberto Pugnale, email@example.com
Keep up to date with news, events and research! Subscribers receive email updates about the BioInspiration Hallmark Research Initiative, and invitations to relevant events.
For more information, or to register as a Subscriber, contact Katrina Rankin, firstname.lastname@example.org
Banner image source: Pixabay