Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


Sufficient background in structural mechanics

Rationale for Offering this Subject

The growing use of bio-inspired structures in aerospace and many other disciplines has arisen from their high specific strength and stiffness, and easy (low energy) fabrication processes when compared to more conventional materials, and our ability to shape and tailor their structure to produce more aerodynamically efficient structural configurations. There is a growing desire in the industry to train students to understand these classes of bio-inspired materials for interdisciplinary design work and also to tailor these exotic materials to meet the needs of industry application. The intent of this course is to respond to this perceived gap, while exploiting synergies with other engineering departments that have articulated similar needs.

Course Description

The principal objectives of the course are to:

  • Offer an overview of bio-inspired nanomaterials, bio-inspired intelligent structures, and bio-inspired morphing structures through advanced understanding of material properties, design and structural behavior at different levels (material, element, structural and system levels). For each level, various concepts will be introduced.
  • Relate these bio-inspired structures to design of intelligent and active structures, nanomaterials and morphing structures.
  • Introduce advanced processing methods for synthesizing bio-inspired nanomaterials (ranging from single nanoparticles to three-dimensional nanostructures), fabricating of intelligent and morphing structures. Discuss importance of structural dynamic, thermodynamic and kinetic theories related to such processing.
  • Describe methods for characterizing the bio-inspired structures and properties.
  • Discuss current and emerging applications for bio-inspired structures (e.g. mechanics of actuation and morphing).
  • Illuminate the impact of bio-inspired and bio-derived ideas on nano- and related technologies.

Learning Objectives

  • Looking into the behavior of bio-inspired structures properties at different levels:
    • Material level (e.g. micro-cracking, failure theories, plasticity, and fracture)
    • Structural (e.g. torsion, joints, biaxial bending)
    • Element level (e.g. failure modes, shear transfer, creep and ductility)
    • Systems level (e.g. morphing, IUAV, spacecraft, cardiovascular, bone, etc)
  • Being able to apply bio-inspired nanomaterials, intelligent and morphing structures principles to a creative design solution, e.g. bio-inspired energy structures
  • Being able to understand the structure, properties, and performance at different length scales relative to the hierarchical organization of bio-inspired structures such as bone
  • Being able to relate advanced biologically-inspired structural engineering materials that exhibit mechanical properties that increase the strength and toughness for a material relative to its constituents
  • Understanding both the applications and limitations of bio-inspired structures, computation and experimental techniques available to design such structures
  • Understanding of application of human-factors in design and engineering
  • Being able to carry out interdisciplinary design work using these bio-inspired structures
  • Presentation skills including computer-aided three dimensional image presentation

Course Structure

The course is divided into four sections.

  • In the first section the processing of bio-inspired structures (nanomaterials, intelligent composites and morphing structures), their properties and applications will be discussed, e.g. lessons from nature for biomimetic materials synthesis.
  • In the second section, design of bio-inspired intelligent and morphing structures through advanced understanding of material and structural behavior.
  • In the third section, overview of methods of assembly, nano-fabrication techniques and bio-inspired nanostructures derived from physical and chemical deposition techniques will be presented. The range of applications will cover biomedical sensing and imaging, micro- and nano-fluidics, photonic crystals, optoelectronics, and tissue engineering.
  • In the fourth section will also look at bio-inspired structures with self-assembly configurations: biological, chemically self-assembled monolayers, and three-dimensional opals structures.

Guest lecturers have been invited to complement the course by presenting the latest findings in their field of study. Reviews will be given at the end of each section, principally to present a unified overview of each section, and also for exam or course work preparation.


Students will receive a letter grade for the course. There is no final exam.

Homework and participation 25%
Quizzes 25%
Research proposal and presentation 50%



Processing of bio-inspired structures
1 Introduction, overview: bio-inspired structures, applications  
2 Stealing ideas from nature, biomimetics  
3 Materials properties, design, structural behavior  
4 Materials properties, design, structural behavior (cont.)  
5 Morphing structures  
6 Nanoparticles and structures  
7 Biomimetics of deployable structures Confirm project topic area
8 Bio-structures and properties  
9 Review  
Design of bio-inspired morphing structures and methods of assembly
10 Bio-inspired nanomaterials  
11 Methods of self-assembly  
12 Self-assembled monolayers and applications  
13 Self-assembled monolayers and applications (cont.)  
14 Bio-inspired intelligent structures  
15 Smart and active material  
16 Bulk nanostructures advanced materials  
17 Bio-active surfaces and structures  
18 Review  
Bio-inspired intelligent structures
19 Bio-inspired optical systems  
20 Joint design  
21 Design of muscle-like actuators Research proposal due
22 Review  
23 Final presentation Final presentation due