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MSc Engineering Management - Evening Lecture "Where the machines grow"

Photo Prof. Ille Gebeshuber

The students of the MSc Program Engineering Management (2018-2020) had the great pleasure of getting a hands-on insight into the highly relevant and fascinating world of “biomimetics” through an evening lecture held by Austrian Physicist Prof. Ille Gebeshuber from TU Wien on December 10, 2018.

After having spent seven years at the Institute of Microengineering and Nanoelectronics at the National University of Malaysa from 2009 to 2015, Prof. Ille Gebeshuber returned to Austria to continue her research at TU Wien. Inspired by her expeditions in the Malaysian rainforest, she has since then published her book “Wo die Maschinen wachsen” (English translation: “Where the machines grow”) in which she outlines her vision of a value-based technological approach that aims at solving global problems in a sustainable, ethical and responsible manner.

In essence, biomimetics is the transdisciplinary science (and also art) of abstracting good design from nature and applying it to any field of interest. Excellent examples for applied biomimetics include velcro (a hook and loop principle inspired by the burdock plant) or airplane winglets designed to reduce an aircraft’s drag and thereby also fuel consumption (inspired by the wingtip feathers of birds).

In the areas of materials, structures and processes, biomimetics combined with nanoengineering is expected to deliver entirely new insights. The birdwing butterfly Trogonoptera brookiana for example realizes the remarkable colors of its wings through complex periodic nanostructures. Microstructures on butterfly wings are also responsible for their water repellent characteristic. The qualities of such structures can be transferred to other surfaces by using a stamp technique. What biomimetics has not yet figured out is how to actually grow structures in desired shapes. One can only imagine how achieving this could eventually disrupt engineering as we currently know it!

For us as future “Engineering Managers” it was a impressive look in a new world.