In addition to enhanced strength, the proteins geometry also leads to a highly robust structure that provides it with an 80 percent robustness rate, giving it very high marks from an engineering perspective. (A 100 percent rating could be applied only to a fail-safe structure.) This 80 percent level of robustness, while simultaneously providing significant mechanical strength enables the biological structure to minimize the use of materials and make it efficient overall and able to sustain extreme mechanical conditions, said the authors.
By contrast, the lack of robustness in many synthetic materials makes it necessary for engineers to introduce large safety factors that guarantee a structures functionality under extreme conditions. For instance, an engineering structure such as a tall building must be able to withstand loads that are 10 times greater than usual, just to protect it in case of one tiny crack, said Buehler. By studying biological building materials and using a bottom-up structural design and synthesis approach, we hope to discover new ways to create stronger synthetic materials, he said.
This new understanding could lead to the development of stronger, more robust materials that consume less energy in their manufacturing and transport. Such advances are only possible by including the molecular scale into the engineering design approach, said Buehler.
|Contact: Denise Brehm|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering