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Although stiff, lightweight materials are needed in many applications (aircraft and biomedical implants are just two examples), they are costly and time-consuming to make. A team of researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland has now taken inspiration from how lightweight and tough biological materials, like spider silk, bone and wood, naturally form, to 3D print liquid-crystal-polymer structures with properties that rival the highest performance lightweight composite materials around today.

Natural materials like spider silk, bone and wood boast complex and exquisite multiscale structures that are formed through directed self-assembly, explain the Complex Materials and Soft Materials teams at ETH. Spider silk, for example, forms thanks to the alignment of silk proteins along the direction of the fibres.

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Category: Science