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Department of Chemistry


Images courtesy Nathan Pitt.

The Department of Chemistry hosted a two-day Nature Inspired Manufacturing workshop in December.

The objective of the workshop was to explore the application of Biomimetic principles to modern manufacturing, and the central idea that emerged was that biology is a source of design solutions that can have great impact in industry.

Biomimetics offers to materials scientists and engineers a sustainable path to learn from nature in the development of high performance next-generation materials. The workshop covered both the fundamental exploration of materials inspired by biological systems in nature, and their fabrication and applications in today's technology.    

At the workshop scientists, engineers and company representatives described their experience in utilising nature for man-made processes and products.  

In the final panel, the relationship between synthetic biology and biomimetics was discussed. The key difference is that biology must manufacture its own materials that are capable of supporting any desirable new emergent properties, as well as all the properties in between. In contrast, biomimetics aims only to copy the principles encountered at the top level and has no need to fabricate the hierarchies in between. Thus synthetic biology is seen in biomimetics primarily as a provider of materials, whose sole purpose is to provide a basis for the top level behaviour that is to be emulated.  

The challenges in translating biological processes into engineering principles concluded the workshop, which was organised by Drs Silvia Vignolini, Paul Barker and Chris Forman of the Department of Chemistry in conjunction with Dr Eitan Abraham of Heriot-Watt University and Professor Marc Desmulliez, the Director and Founder of the Nature Inspired Manufacturing Centre.  

The organisers are grateful to Schlumberger for its help in sponsoring the workshop.

Thank you to Dr Chris Forman for allowing the department to adapt his summary of the workshop for this news item.