Biological Filtration Mechanisms: Exploring Nature's Diversity for Bioinspired Design


Using biologically inspired mechanisms to solve technological problems can help address many of the challenges of our time. However, translating biological mechanisms into concrete applications for consumers or industry is a very ambitious task. To foster the necessary transition processes, the European Commission is funding a unique PhD training program on the topic of bioinspiration. This will train nine future professionals as doctoral candidates in a multidisciplinary, European consortium with profound background and reputation in bioinspiration, biology, design processes and additive manufacturing.

The biomechanism that was chosen as a training example is filters from filterfeeders like ducks, paddlefishes or whale sharks. Technical equivalents of such filters would be highly efficient, high-throughput, pollution-free filtration systems to separate microplastics and water, for example. However, the result of the project is not limited to a technical system, but should rather lead to a deeper understanding of the bioinspiration process as a method that can be transferred to other applications.


Contribution of Fraunhofer IWS

Fraunhofer IWS will provide the consortium with its expertise in additive manufacturing of metals and will host one of the PhD students. The design freedom of additive manufacturing corresponds well with the complexity of the biological source of inspiration. Especially in the transition to industrial systems, the use of metallic materials is very likely, since, for example, the polymers used in filter systems are often not durable enough for long-term use.

Another aspect is the exploration of multi-material fabrication, e.g. to replicate hard and soft components of biological systems or active components to mimic muscle movements. In collaboration with its partners, Fraunhofer IWS will also investigate the sustainability of the materials and applications used as well as the transferability of the bioinspiration process to industrial applications.

Original and replica of a bird skull.
© Fraunhofer IWS
Original and replica of a bird skull.