Atomistic Studies of Flaw Tolerant Nanoscale Structural Links in Biological Materials

Nature’s principle of material design
  • Markus J. Buehler
  • Huajian Gao
Conference paper


This paper discusses fundamental design concepts of nanoscale structural links in biological materials and focuses on verification of these concepts via atomistic simulations. Bone-like biological materials have achieved superior mechanical properties through hierarchical composite structures of mineral and protein, with the most basic structural units designed at a characteristic nanoscale. Gecko and many insects have developed hierarchical surface structures to achieve extraordinary adhesion capabilities through evolution, with basic structural units also at nanoscale. We argue that choosing a characteristic nanometer scale for the structural links in these materials plays a critical role in allowing the biological systems to achieve their superior properties. In both systems, restricting the characteristic dimension of the basic structure components to nanometer scale prevents crack-like flaws from propagating to break the desired structural link. We demonstrate via atomistic simulations the principle of flaw tolerance by size reduction which may have had a governing influence on the evolution of the bulk nanostructure of bonelike materials and the surface nanostructure of gecko. The present study is part of an on-going effort in our research group on learning how nature designs materials and structures at nanoscale. Biology is nanotechnology by nature, and nanomechanics plays a key role in understanding the basic engineering principles used in nature.

Key words

Flaw-tolerance structural link continuum atomistic fracture adhesion 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markus J. Buehler
    • 1
  • Huajian Gao
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Metals ResearchStuttgartGermany

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