Unicellular planktonic organisms such as diatoms constitute the most important basis of marine food webs. They make a major contribution to global primary production and have an essential effect on the oceans’ biogeochemistry. Marine key taxa like krill, fish, and whales basically depend on them. The diatoms’ success is largely due to the development of complex, species-specific silica shells - the frustules - , which protect them against predators such as copepods and krill.

We explore the principles that turn the exoskeletons (shells) of these organisms into extremely light and stable constructions. We found that the shells’ highly complex geometries have a large share in these characteristics. Based on these research results, we developed the bionic product creation process ELiSE in 2005, which we have continuously improved ever since.

Recently, we started projects to examine the nanostructure and morphogenesis of diatom shells in order to be able to optimally adapt the ELiSE process  to highly developed composite material and manufacturing techniques like investment casting or Additive Manufacturing (AM). Reversely, we use new developments from industrial projects, such as the parametric optimization with the aid of genetic algorithms, to obtain new findings on the functional morphology of plankton organisms. Furthermore, we develop and apply microscopic analyses and 3D reconstructions, micromechanical tests, culture experiments, and ecologic examinations.

We aim at systematically refining fundamental research, applied research, and product development in the field of lightweight design in nature and technique, consequentially using strong synergy effects. We therefore closely cooperate with other divisions in AWI, particularly the Friedrich Hustedt Diatom Study Centre and the Polar Biological Oceanography, application-oriented institutes like KIT, organizations like BioKon and VDI as well as industrial companies from diverse sectors.


LightCon Preview Week
from June, 22. to 26. there will be a live webinar in English every day. Christian Hamm will hold his webinar on June, 24 on the topic "Structure, Material, Software: The Future of Bioinspired Lightweight Design"

Network visit of the Federation of German Entrepreneurs
on "Climate, sustainability and women entrepreneurs"
on Monday 24.02.2020

AWI-Transfer Prize 2019
We are very pleased that we have received the AWI Transfer Prize 2019

S. Andresen, A. Bäger, C. Hamm, 2020

"Eigenfrequency maximisation by using irregular lattice structures"
Journal of Sound and Vibration

S. Andresen, Nov. 2019
Talk "Improvement of vibration properties through the use of biologically-inspired structures" at the VDI symposium  Vibrations 2019 in Würzburg, Germany

Head of Unit
Dr. Christian Hamm

Assistant / Website
Sandra Coordes

Here you can find our tenders for theses