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Design and manufacture of nature-inspired wearable structure

Project ID: 2228cd1250 (You will need this ID for your application)

Under Offer

Research Theme: Advanced Materials

UCL Lead department: Bartlett School of Architecture

Department Website

Lead Supervisor: Sean Hanna

Project Summary:

High-performance wearables including shoes, helmets and protective sport equipment are required to absorb and distribute impact across the complex geometry of the body while also allowing movement and flexibility. Relevant material properties, including stiffness and Poisson’s ratio, are typically functionally graded across a design domain by assembling distinct components, yet a greater range and fit to requirements is possible by varying the fine scale geometry of composite materials. This project will test and develop a systematic set of such geometries derived from biological principles such as those found in lizard skins, as applied to the requirements of human activity and geometry.

Supervisors’ prior research supports the feasibility of the approach as a cross-disciplinary collaboration between departments of Architecture and Mechanical Engineering. Geometries resembling alternating overlapping plate geometry as in Corucia Zebrata appear to offer higher energy absorption compared to aligned plates or non-overlapping osteoliths of other species (Liang et al, 2021). Variance of such geometry is found across the body, accommodating flexibility for joints and other varied requirements. The abstraction of these geometrical principles for application in a wearable context will be a design task involving iterations of analysis, material prototyping and testing as the project progresses, and the ideal candidate will have a strong understanding of biological materials, ability to model and manipulate complex geometry, solid technical background in additive manufacturing and related computation, and design experience. They will be supported by UCL’s existing capacity for direct manufacturing, including multi-material printing at B-Made (Bartlett Manufacturing and Design Exchange), scanning and photogrammetry at the Here East facility shared by both collaborating faculties, and a wide range of material characterisation and X-ray imaging at Mechanical Engineering. Project outcomes are expected to extend our understanding of lizard skin performance, and improve capacity for manufacture of compliant materials across a range of domains.