teaching
Evolutionary Biomaterials Group

 

Invertebrates are a major group of organisms in our studies. More than 400 species of insects were studied using various microscopical methods. Insects are also rather convenient objects for experimental studies (figure: syrphid fly Eristalis sp. used in studies of attachment pads)

Studies on vertebrates are restricted to organisms bearing interesting adhesive and frictional devices. Gecko attachment pads, snake skin microoutgrowths and bird feather interlocking structures are the main systems under consideration (figure: sand boa on sand substrate)

 

To understand the mechanisms of insect attachment to plants, information about plant surfaces is important. An external layer of plant epicuticular waxes that generally coats the cuticle surface strongly influences insect attachment (figure: flowers of an umbelliferous plant)

The phenomena, observed in studies on biological systems, often have to be modelled, using artificial materials, enabling an understanding of the biological system's functional principle due to the reduction of the number of factors influencing results (figure: SEM picture of nanostructures made of Spurr-resin)

 

Comparative studies. Mechanisms of animal locomotion on various substrata have fascinated scientists over the centuries, but tribological and evolutionary aspects of an animalís ability to move for example on the ceiling or in sand still remain less explored. For this reason our studies are not restricted to one particular organism. We perform broad comparative studies to extract information about the structural and functional principles of biological frictional and attachment devices and to understand evolutionary tendencies in the wide variety of micro- and nanostructures.

Experimental studies. We mainly work experimentally on several groups of model organisms: invertebrates (insects, spiders), vertebrates (snakes, lizards, birds), and plants. A particular species or group of species is usually selected depending on the system studied and question asked. Artificial materials are used for the design of model systems and as reference materials for a better understanding of physical phenomena observed in biological systems.