Inspired by Palm Trees' Resilience, Florida Tech Researcher Seeks to Strengthen Made MaterialsAugust 4, 20232 min read
Inspired by the tiny, circular vessels in the trunks of palm trees that allow the iconic plants to bend but not snap in strong winds, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering is researching how to recreate Mother Nature’s handiwork in additive manufacturing.
Mirmilad Mirsayar received a three-year, $200,627 research grant from the National Science Foundation’s highly competitive Mechanics of Materials and Structures program under the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation to study the mechanics and physics of crack propagation in functionally graded cellular structures made by additive manufacturing. That’s the process of creating an object by building it one layer at a time.
Mirsayar is the sole principal investigator of the project, “Understanding Mixed-Mode Fracture Mechanics in Additively Manufacturable Functionally Graded Microcellular Solids.”
His research is inspired by cellular patterns seen in palm trees and butterfly wings. For example, unlike oak trees and some others, the palm tree’s center contains those vessels, distributed non-uniformly throughout the trunk, that help it survive in Florida’s windy environment. Other biological systems, such as bone, honeycombs and marine sponges, also serve as inspirations from nature.
“I’m enjoying this research because I’m learning from nature and I’m applying fundamentals of physics and mathematics to solve a very important engineering problem while training the next generation of engineers and researchers,” Mirsayar said.
Materials with cellular structures, such as aircraft wings and artificial bones, are widely used in industries such as aerospace and biomedical. As additive manufacturing has advanced, materials with cellular structures and increasingly complex geometrical patterns can be precisely manufactured.
Mirsayar is looking at ways to optimize these strong and light cellular structures made by additive manufacturing to achieve the highest resistance against failure under complex operational loading conditions, such as bending tension, compression and torsion.