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.

Latest News

Oct. 2022 - Award: As part of BioFly-Democase team, the project team was awarded  for the best academic project at MetalMadrid 2022.

Oct. 2022 - Video: Presentation of the OASIS project, in which we have developed bio-inspired designs for different fields (link to the video).

Sept. 2022: AWI spin-off ELISE GmbH receives 14.5 million euros to digitise engineering knowledge (in german language)

May 2022 -  Publication: Bionic Girder by Dr. Simone Andresen is presented in the DESY magazine "femto" ("Vorbild Strahlentierchen" - pages 38 - 42 only in german available)

May 2022 - Helmholtz Doctoral Award 2022 for Dr. Simone Andresen in the field Earth and environment: "Impact of Structural Components on Natural Vibrations. How The Inspiration by Nature Can Help Us Improve Vibration Properties"

20. to 24.04.2022 - Dr. Christian Hamm is member of the jury sustainability at the 7 th Filmfest Bremen

23.04.2022 - Vernissage "Wasserwelt", Talk with Dr. Christian Hamm at the opening of the exhibition at 6 p.m.

23.03.2023 - G7 Workshop on Resource Efficiency and the Circular Economy, Discussion with Dr Hamm, organised by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUV) and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK)

10.02.2022 - Talk by Dr. Hamm as part of the "Wissenschaft fürs Wohnzimmer" series (video available):  "Meeresbiologie, Innovation & Klimatschutz - Technologie-Transfer duch Bionik" (only in german language available)

26.01. 2022 - Newsflash: Avoiding oscillations with the help of diatoms

26.11.2021 - Dissertation: S. Andresen (2021) Impact of structural components on natural vibrations. How the inspiration by nature can help us improve vibration properties

Head of Unit
Dr. Christian Hamm

Assistance / Website
Sandra Coordes

Here you can find our tenders for theses.

Talk by Dr. Hamm as part of the "Wissenschaft fürs Wohnzimmer" series

BioFLY video for Advanced Manufacturing Awards 2022