Designing Architectured Materials: Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

By Pablo Daniel Zavattieri

Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

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There is a strong demand for new paradigms of design and development of advanced high-performance structural materials with high strength and durability that are low-cost and renewable with novel combinations of properties. Yet, most of these applications require high-performance materials that are not only stiff and strong for structural purposes, but also they need to be tough and capable of absorbing energy to avoid catastrophic failure under extreme events. Unfortunately, most engineering materials have an inverse relation between these desired properties. By natural selection, Nature has evolved, through millions of years, efficient strategies to synthesize materials that often exhibit exceptional mechanical properties that significantly break the trade-offs often achieved by man-made materials. In fact, most biological composite materials achieve higher toughness without sacrificing stiffness and strength comparing to typical engineering material. Interrogating how Nature employs these strategies and decoding the structure-function relationship of these materials is a challenging task that requires knowledge about the actual loading and environmental conditions of the material in their natural habitat, as well as a complete characterization of their constituents and hierarchical ultrastructure through the use of modern tools such as in-situ electron microscopy, small-scale mechanical testing capabilities, additive manufacturing, and advanced multiscale numerical models. In turn, this provides the necessary tools for the design and fabrication of novel architectured materials with remarkable properties. I will particularly focus my talk on the convergent evolution of impact resistant naturally occurring materials and how 3D printing, analytical/computational modeling and experimental testing can successfully be combined to evaluate some important hypotheses about the key morphological features of the microstructure and most important toughening mechanisms that are unique in these hierarchical materials.


Pablo Zavattieri

Dr. Pablo Zavattieri is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering and University Faculty Scholar at Purdue University. His research lies at the interface between solid mechanics and materials engineering. His engineering and scientific curiosity has focused on the fundamental aspects of how Nature uses elegant and efficient ways to make remarkable and more sustainable materials. He has contributed to the area of biomimetic materials by investigating the structure-function relationship of naturally-occurring high-performance materials at multiple length-scales, combining state-of-the-art computational techniques and experiments to characterize the properties. His early works on 3D computational modeling of the nacre microstructure in combination with experiments revealed some of the most important toughening mechanisms. He also pioneered the use of the 3D printing for biomimetics. His current research program includes the study of other remarkable natural microstructures, including mantis shrimp, chitons, beetles, fish scales, bird feathers, woodpeckers, bamboos, and organic nanocrystals. Prof. Zavattieri is the recipient of the NSF CAREER award, the Roy E. & Myrna G. Wansik Research Award, he is a National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Alumnus and a National Academy of Science Kavli Frontier of Science Fellow. He was recently appointed a Purdue University Faculty Scholar for the period 2015-2020.

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  • Pablo Daniel Zavattieri (2016), "Designing Architectured Materials: Evolution vs. Intelligent Design,"

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Math 175, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN