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

New entries on our project page
You can now find information about our two new projects Form and Function and FIONA on our project page. While Form and Function is about the investigation of the structural performance of phytoplankton morphologies, FIONA is about bionic structures and the use of anisotropic materials in 3D printing.

Upcoming conference presentation at ICVP 2021 (14th - 15th January 2021)
"Shape Adaptation of 1D, 2D, and 3D Structures to Increase the Eigenfrequencies" (S. Andresen, S. K. Linnemann, L. M. Lottes, O. Savysko, R. Kienzler)
International Conference on Vibration Problems

New Publication
Andresen S. (2021): Impact of Bio-inspired Structural Irregularities on Plate Eigenfrequencies.
In: Sapountzakis E.J., Banerjee M., Biswas P., Inan E. (eds) Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Vibration Problems. Lecture Notes in Mechanical Engineering. Springer, Singapore.

New Publication
Andresen S., Lottes L.M., Linnemann S.K., Kienzler R. (2020): Shape adaptation of beams (1D) and plates (2D) to maximise eigenfrequencies.
Advances in Mechanical Engineering Volume 12(11). pp 1-18

LightCon Preview Week
from 22.06. to 26.06.2020 there was a live webinar every day.
Christian Hamm held his webinar on "Structure, Material, Software: The Future of Bioinspired Lightweight Design" on 24.04.2020.

Head of Unit
Dr. Christian Hamm

Assistance / Website
Sandra Coordes

Here you can find our tenders for theses.