Christoph Neinhuis Group
Biologically inspired materials research, especially plant based fiber reinforced materials and their application in engineering
Plants evolved numerous highly optimized combinations of materials based on polysaccharides, proteins or combinations the latter with minerals. These materials have evolved as an adaptation to various environmental conditions. Until now, only a limited number of species have been investigated in detail but some of the properties may be of potential interest for engineering. Current projects study the mechanical properties of unusual tree like plants such as monocots (Aloe, Yucca, Dracaena) or hydro-actuated plants organs (papaya stems or ice plant seed capsules). A second project studies the architecture and biomechanics of the vascular system of columnar cacti as a model for new branched composite materials in light weight engineering.
Functional plant surfaces and biomimetics. Plant surfaces are multifunctional interfaces serving different purposes. We extensively studied water repellency and self-cleaning properties of a large number of plant and animal species. The results have successfully been transferred in technical materials. Currently more general anti-adhesive and adhesive properties are studied because of their large potential in technical materials such as highly non-wettable surfaces from springtails (Collembola) or the adhesive coatings of plant seeds (e.g. Peperomia)
Additional research topics
- Molecular phylogenetics and evolution of plants
- Floristics and nature conservation in Saxony
Future Projects and Goals
Our approach is based on the evaluation and prospecting of the huge global biodiverstiy. Based on field research, but especially on plants from the living collections of the Botanic Garden, we are looking for unusual constructions, material combinations or functions, which may serve as models for future developments in engineering (biomimetics).
Methodological and Technical Expertise
- Scanning electron microscopy including cryo-preservation
- Materials testing of whole organs down to individual tissues and cells
- Light microscopy, microtomy, and image analysis of plant tissues
- Molecular phylogenetics and sequence analysis