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BIHSNAM Report Summary

Project ID: 279985
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Italy

Final Report Summary - BIHSNAM (Bio-inspired Hierarchical Super Nanomaterials)

The ERC Starting Grant project “Bio-inspired Hierarchical Super Nanomaterials” (2012-2016), led by Prof. Nicola Pugno of the University of Trento, has produced top-level research and novel results in its quest to reach a systematic and comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms behind the exceptional mechanical performance of natural structural materials, and transferring this knowledge to novel artificial bioinspired (nano) materials. In particular, extensive investigation of the role of hierarchical structure has been performed in the fields of fracture, adhesion, friction, vibration, surface wettability, etc. Notable results of the project include studies on spider web flaw tolerance (gaining the cover of Nature in 2012), the shear mode and tunable hydrophobicity of graphene (both published on Nature Materials). Its continuation has further explored a variety of biological systems (ranging from crocodile skin, to limpet teeth, to spider web anchorages) both theoretically, experimentally and numerically, and transferred new ideas and concepts to the field of biomimicry (e.g. self-healing systems, bioinspired armors, super-tough fibres, antiadhesive surfaces, etc.). The scientific output has continued to be considerable, with about 145 papers published in top-level international journals such as Nature, Nature Materials, Nature Communications, Advanced Materials etc. since the beginning of the project. Some of the results have gained considerable attention in both scientific and non-scientific media, as in the case of the study on Limpet teeth, found to be the strongest biological material to date, or in the case of silk reinforced with nanomaterials directly spun by spiders, achieving the highest known toughness for a fibre. The PI, Nicola Pugno, has been invited – also directly by ERC - to numerous international conferences as Plenary or Keynote speaker, at science festivals and at dissemination events, including the ERC celebrations for 5000 funded grants at the European Parliament. He has appeared on national television, spoken on national radio in Italy and written various articles for national newspapers to explain the project findings to a non-specialist audience, including “La Stampa” (well-known national newspaper) and “Le Scienze” (the Italian version of Scientific American).
For more details, see the project website at

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