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Research Biomimetics About us

What is Biomimetics?


We study how organisms evolved to function successfully in their complex environments as inspiration to improve technology and engineering design. Our focus is primarily, but not exclusively, on aquatic and aerial behaviours including feeding, swimming and flight. Informed by our scientific findings, we develop new biomimetic and bioinspired solutions for engineering and societal challenges. Our technological focus is on energy harvesting, energy use efficiency, environmental cleanup and autonomous robotics. To accomplish our research and innovation goals and translate our findings to society, we collaborate with leading scientist, engineers and companies locally, nationally and globally. To engage our students as well as the general public, we offer exciting research experiences, organize national outreach projects and help the international media disseminate our discoveries and innovations.

Research & Innovation

To meet short-term and long-term societal education and innovation needs, we combine basic and applied research to find Biomimetic and Bioinspired Design solutions for current engineering and societal challenges. Life on Earth originated about 3.8 billion years ago in water and has since diversified and dispersed over all aquatic, terrestrial and aerial habitats across the planet. The diversity in animal, plant, bacterial and fungal species are embodied in myriad anatomical solutions with incredibly diverse and sophisticated morphological functions that solve key problems for living sustainably on earth. Nature evolved, honed and selected these solutions over millions of years of prototyping and testing under a wide range of challenging conditions. To fully understand these ‘solutions’ and translate them into new applications, scientific research using state-of-the-art engineering techniques and models is essential. We not only harness our own basic research; we also pursue applied research with a focus on translating engineering innovation to the market. In our applied research we use our broad experience and understanding of the current biological literature to help companies innovate with short lead times inspired by nature.

Integrated Design Philosophies

Our group integrates engineering and biological expertise, which informs our design philosophy and toolkit. We augment our traditional “Systems Engineering” and “Design Thinking” engineering design expertise with “Biomimetics” and “Bioinspired Design” techniques, which are key tools to find new proven solutions for hard design and societal problems that traditional engineering techniques failed to resolve satisfactory. There are many popular descriptions of Biomimetic and Bioinspired Design philosophies. We chose to name our research group Biomimetics, which literally means “copying life”, because it integrates our basic and applied research goals in a single word. However, our general innovation approach is inclusive of simply using new principles inspired by nature combined with realistic and pragmatic engineering and societal constraints to find solutions that are realistic and work satisfactory short-term. In addition, we develop long-term blue skies solutions that can rejuvenate our economy during future decades. Finally, in addition to “Biomimetics” and “Bioinspired Design”, our design philosophies are frequently also referred to as “Biomimicry” and “Bionics”, which are equivalent names that all stem from the basic idea of integrating Biology and Engineering to discover and innovate.

Biomimetics Research Practice

Short-term biomimetic innovation. When we take a direct biomimetics approach in our group, we solve a predefined technological challenge. After formalizing and condensing the technical problem to its essence, we start out with looking for an analogues biological functional morphological challenge for which evolution found solutions. We then study these organisms and their functional solutions to fully comprehend them and the constraints under which they evolved. We then abstract and simplify the solution so that they can be pragmatically translated and meet realistic engineering and societal constraints. Finally, we implement these new solutions working in a project team and test them thoroughly in practice to ensure they meet expectations. These solutions are of direct relevance to the current economy.

Long-term biomimetic innovation. With the same effort we also pursue curiosity driven biological research with high-tech as well as custom invented and engineered instruments to unlock hard scientific questions that cannot be solved with off-the-shelf biological research techniques. Upon making scientific discoveries, we can’t help realizing how these discoveries offer unique solutions to unresolved engineering challenges, because of our engineering training, expertise and passion. This is how we pursue serendipitous biomimetics : a solution for a technical problem emerges during fundamental biological research. These solutions are often the most unexpected and enabling for long-term innovations, which have the potential to shape our future economy during the next decades.


Biomimetics research infrastructure

To study how animals move, to develop our biomimetic solutions and to engage the general public with our research we use state-of-the-art engineering technology.

Research facilities

  • Wind tunnel with three tests sections: 1.4 x 1.4 x 1.5 m test section @ 5 m/s max; 1.4 x 0.5 x 1.5 m test section @ 15 m/s max; 0.4 x 0.5 x 1 m test section @ 45 m/s max (in large wind tunnel lab)
  • Flow tank with 0.4 x 0.4 x 1.2 m test section; maximum speed 3 m/s
  • Three additional smaller test section flow tanks e.g. for animal experiments
  • Aquarium room with large holding tanks.
  • Five climate rooms for animal housing.
  • Three large research labs

Research instrumentation

  • EKB high-speed projectors, 4kHz (6x)
  • High-speed cameras (B/W & full color, up to 10k fps)
  • Stereoscopic video (up to 100 fps).
  • Phantom high-speed research cameras, 3200 fps (5x)
  • Nikon photographic cameras and lenses ranging from macro to tele.
  • XROMM biplanar fluoroscopes with 16” image intensifiers (2x)
  • High-speed motion capture system, 1000 Hz (14 cameras; 2 systems)
  • Closed-loop controlled Turbulence Generation System
  • Aerodynamics LaVision TOMO PIV system with DaVis software, High-speed laser, 1-10kHz, 30mJ pulse.
  • ATI 6-axis force sensors and amplifiers (21x)
  • 1D, 2D, and 3D Aerodynamic Force Platforms
  • Capacitive distance sensors, 10kHz (10x)
  • Sorama 1k acoustic array, 1024 microphones
  • 3D Ultrasonic anemometer 100 Hz
  • 1D Dantec hot wire anemometer 10,000 Hz
  • Field deployable anemometer for robotics
  • B&K Seismometer & infrasound recorder
  • David 3D surface scanner
  • Dissection microscopes (2x)
  • Multichannel sonomicrometry and EMG recorders
  • Hydrodynamics Digital Particle Image Velocimetry with 45 W CW Laser
  • 2D force measurement systems with resp. 5N and 50 N full scale, 16 bits readout
  • A wide range of smaller research instruments

Design and prototyping infrastructure

  • CAD Design
  • COMSOL Multiphysics CFD & FEM Simulation
  • OpenFOAM 2D & 3D CFD capacity
  • Custom MATLAB modelling and analysis software
  • Five in-house 3D printers
  • Laser cutter
  • Electronics tools incl. microscopes and scopes
  • Fine mechanics shop with band saw, mill & drill press etc.

Shared facilities and support

  • Aviaries and animal care
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle test field
  • University machine shop

Outreach cameras

  • Phantom color high-speed camera, 3200 fps, for outreach (1x)
  • Small Sony cameras for high school projects (8x).

Last modified:06 November 2022 7.53 p.m.