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