Understanding the mechanical functions of phytoplankton shells and utilizing their structural strategies in engineering applications

Background and motivation
Diatoms, a class of phytoplankton, are marine microorganisms characterized by having silicified hard shells and skeletons with highly complex architectures. These morphologies have been shaped by the selective pressures that the organisms have been subjected to during their evolutionary history.
Establishing the relationships between the biological structures in question and their possible mechanical roles will not only upgrade the body of knowledge on these organisms and the evolutionary pressures which have shaped them, but it would also enable engineers to employ the discovered biological strategies into solving analogous technical human challenges.

Through computational design and simulation, this work aims to uncover the links between naturally occurring intricate plankton geometries and their mechanical functions. In detail, the results obtained from a two-stage approach will contribute to improving the general understanding of phytoplankton organisms, while helping to develop bio-inspired functional design strategies that can be efficiently transferred to state-of-the-art engineering applications and design technologies.

A systemic approach to link diatom morphologies to their mechanical functions will be established. This approach will include two different stages. In the first stage, a collection of features which are expected to contribute to mechanical performance will be assembled. Abstractions of these features will be modeled and inputted into a computational workflow which would automatically assess different features for different mechanical loading conditions. Founded on the results of this general evaluation, a second stage which employs a deeper evaluation will be undergone. When a certain feature is frequently selected by the numerical algorithm to accommodate a certain load case, this specific feature will be furthermore investigated thoroughly for that specific load case.

Final theses
Within the framework of this project final theses can be carried out. Unsolicited applications are welcome and can be sent to Sandra Coordes. It is important to us that the application contains your own motivation, educational background and previous practical experience.

Breish, F., Hamm, C., Kienzler R. (2023) Diatom-inspired stiffness optimization for plates and cellular solids. Bioinspir Biomim. 18(3)

Project execution:
Firas Breish

+49 (471) 4831-2205

June 2020 until June 2023
(3 years)

Final thesis:
Final theses can be written in this project