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Proceedings Paper

Fabrication of cellular materials
Author(s): Robert K. Prud'homme; Ilhan A. Aksay; Rajeev Garg
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Paper Abstract

Nature uses cellular materials in applications requiring strength while, simultaneously, minimizing raw materials requirements. Minimizing raw materials is efficient both in terms of the energy expended by the organism to synthesize the structure and in terms of the strength- to-weight ratio of the structure. Wood is the most obvious example of cellular bio-materials, and it is the focus of other presentations in this symposium. The lightweight bone structure of birds is another excellent example where weight is a key criterion. The anchoring foot of the common muscle [Mytilus edulis] whereby it attaches itself to objects is a further example of a biological system that uses a foam to fill space and yet conserve on raw materials. In the case of the muscle the foam is water filled and the foot structure distributes stress over a larger area so that the strength of the byssal thread from which it is suspended is matched to the strength of interfacial attachment of the foot to a substrate. In these examples the synthesis and fabrication of the cellular material is directed by intercellular, genetically coded, biochemical reactions. The resulting cell sizes are microns in scale. Cellular materials at the next larger scale are created by organisms at the next higher level of integration. For example an African tree frog lays her eggs in a gas/fluid foam sack she builds on a branch overhanging a pond. The outside of the foam sack hardens in the sun and prevents water evaporation. The foam structure minimizes the amount of fluid that needs to be incorporated into the sack and minimizes its weight. However, as far as the developing eggs are concerned, they are in an aqueous medium, i.e. the continuous fluid phase of the foam. After precisely six days the eggs hatch, and the solidified outer wall re-liquefies and dumps the emerging tadpoles into the pond below. The bee honeycomb is an example of a cellular material with exquisite periodicity at millimeter length scales. The cellular structure provides strength through geometric regularity and functions as both honey storage vessels and incubators.

Paper Details

Date Published: 9 February 1996
PDF: 4 pages
Proc. SPIE 2716, Smart Structures and Materials 1996: Smart Materials Technologies and Biomimetics, (9 February 1996); doi: 10.1117/12.232166
Show Author Affiliations
Robert K. Prud'homme, Princeton Univ. (United States)
Ilhan A. Aksay, Princeton Univ. (United States)
Rajeev Garg, Princeton Univ. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2716:
Smart Structures and Materials 1996: Smart Materials Technologies and Biomimetics
Andrew Crowson, Editor(s)

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