During my topic presentation, I gave a very brief summary about some of the research I conducted at my last lab. I thought I might post some more information here and give some links to anyone that might be interested in this topic.
So, one of the main goals of my last lab was to develop materials that are both lightweight and extremely strong. By altering the nano-architecture of different materials, the lab is able to, in a sense, induce strength to those materials and reduce the amount of material used. This is accomplished by a property of some nano materials where there is an effect observed called "smaller is stronger." What this means is that as some materials get closer to the nano-scale, they get stronger. The lab utilizes this concept by creating nano-lattices that are 99% air and contain structures that are made out of hollow nano-tubes. This greatly increases the strength and significantly reduces the weight of the material. Now, these materials would have extremely wide applications in the real world from dramatically reducing the weight and amount of materials used of cars, bridges, planes, and many other appliances without sacrificing those materials' strength and durability.
Now for the biological related portion of this post: A lot of these developments and studies were based of nature and naturally occurring things that already exist. In my presentation, the research I was helping with was associated with testing and understanding the micro-structures of diatoms and how those organisms are able to create a very tough and stable silicon micro-structure that can withstand the various mechanical stresses of the ocean. By better understanding evolutionary design and efficacy, the lab hopes to better address how to artificially apply that information from nature into synthetic materials for wider real world applications.
Here are some links if anyone is interested in looking up more information:
Greer Group: http://www.jrgreer.caltech.edu/home.php
Diatoms Paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/113/8/2017.full.pdf
Professor Julia Greer speaking at
Google Solve for X: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dahz8wYWvos