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Biomaterials

Plant-inspired innovations

18 Apr 2018

Spring has just about sprung here in the UK, as the bluebells and daffodils are emerging after a long gruelling winter. In Physics World April podcast, Andrew Glester embraces the botanical theme by looking at a selection of technological innovations inspired by plants.

First up, Glester speaks with Claudia Zeiger about the idea of cleaning up oil spills using lotus leaves and a type of aquatic fern called Salvinia. Zeiger’s team at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology is interested in how these hairy-leaved species can selectively soak up oil particles while repelling water. It’s a property that could inspire more efficient clean-up operations than current approaches.

Later in the episode Glester catches up with Amirkhosro Kazemi from the department of ocean and mechanical engineering at Florida Atlantic University. Kazemi’s studies the physical properties of mangroves – common in tropical and subtropical regions – which provide a natural buffer to flood waters as well as the more routine coastal erosion. Gaining a better understanding of how these shoreline trees can dissipate water and its kinetic energy could inform the design of innovative coastal defence structures.

To find out about more nature-inspired research, check out the April issue of Physics World, a special edition on the physics of plants.

  • Lotus image courtesy Houroumono (CC BY 2.0)

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