Superior design motif for construction materials

A ninth biological structural design pattern has been identified by civil engineers at Monash University which is believed will support the creation of more damage tolerant materials for use in construction.

The new pattern is derived from the rigid external covering of invertebrates and can add a high strength motif to building materials such as composites and cement, ultimately helping to reduce carbon emissions.

In 50 years of research across more than seven million known living species only eight motifs have been found up until now. The ninth is seen in the exoskeletons of arthropods, the legs of mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

The research team from the Department of Civil Engineering at Monash University, led by Professor Wenhui Duan, replicated the design motif in cement. 3D printing was combined with nanotechnology and artificial intelligence to fabricate a lightweight cement composite which used the design motif, resulting in a superior load-bearing capacity.

Professor Duan explained that the new segmental design motif dissipates the energy by segment rotation and can exhibit period progressive failure behaviour. What this means is damage can be contained within a particular region of material while the rest of the structure maintains its integrity and around 80% of its load-bearing capacity.

The design motif could also be applied to other materials, he said, such as ceramic, glass, polymeric and metallic materials for architectural structures, materials design, and energy storage/conversion. Read the full paper – Damage tolerant material design motif derived from asymmetrical rotation – recently published in Nature Communications.

About the author

Desi Corbett

Desi is the Editor of Concrete in Australia and at the helm of our magazine for 8 years. She was behind the Institute's weekly news bulletins from 2016-2021 and is now writing our focused news items. Desi has been an engineering news and features journalist/editor across all disciplines since 2013 - part of a 30-year career writing for a wide range of industries.