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30th June 2017, Germany

BMW’s lessons from nature

Biological models which inspired the programme include the pomelo fruit. © BMW Group New smart materials with up to 20% better protective properties have resulted from the BISS (Bio-Inspired Safety Systems) research project headed by the BMW Group in Germany.

Biological models which inspired the programme include the pomelo fruit, which benefits from highly effective impact protection. Even when it falls from a high tree, for example, the fruit does not split open and the insides remain largely undamaged. Its rind is also extremely light. As another example, the scales of fish and many reptiles overlap to create a composite system that stiffens under load to provide protection against injury. The protective armour of alligators, meanwhile, works in part by distributing force to neighbouring scales.

The initial aim of the research project was to analyse the tissue formation, cell structure and functioning of the natural protection mechanisms and explore their suitability for use in industrially-manufactured products. From there, the next step was to refine the corresponding fibre composites, layer structures and fibre orientation. The project then went on to examine how functions that had previously been difficult to reconcile, such as crash protection, penetration resistance and damping, could be combined in innovative protective systems using layering modelled on biological structures.

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