Crawford, A. E.1,a , Hirhager, N.2,b and Gebeshuber, Ille C.3,4,c
1 Faculty for Architecture: Spaces and Objects, Central Saint Martins, Granary Building 1 Granary Square, King's Cross, London N1C 4AA, United Kingdom
2 Faculty for Architecture and Planning, Vienna University of Technology, Karlsplatz 13, 1040 Vienna, Austria
3 Institute of Microengineering and Nanoelectronics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Malaysia
4 Institute of Applied Physics, Vienna University of Technology, Wiedner Hauptstrasse 8-10/134, 1040 Vienna, Austria
Keywords: transparency, nanoscale, biomimetics, architecture, design, development of new construction materials, zero-waste.
Abstract. In Nature we can find many examples for the benefits of translucency and transparency.
Animals with translucent bodies use these properties in two different ways. Either they serve as camouflage, misleading their predators by seeming invisible, or the transparency is related back to the evolutionary adaption of their special habitat.
The deep sea fish Opisthoproctus soleatus, commonly known as Barreleye fish or spook fish with its transparent head maximizes the perception of light allowing it to travel directly to its specialized eyes. Within sea life a vast collection of species demonstrate the use of transparency. In addition to these deepwater animals, transparent or translucent squid, sea cucumbers and shrimp can provide valuable information.
Land animals and plants that carry these features to their advantage include glass-frogs (owing their name to a transparent skin) which appear nearly invisible on rainforest ground, and glass-winged butterflies (e.g., Greta oto) with partly transparent wings.
These species were selected as point of origin to show how animals can serve as role models for architectural innovation.
Construction research has focused primarily on glass and plastics (synthetic or semisynthetic organic solids) and has yet to reach over to Nature with its wide range of possibilities. Biomimetics of transparency in organisms can yield the development of new construction materials to replace or upgrade known transparent materials. In many cases, structure is reliable for the function, and not material. The transfer of the nanoscale biological structures to new technological materials is the primary focus of our ongoing research. Within the framework of this procedure we investigate the potential of the development of casting methods (fast, easy, reliable, up-scalable) to transfer the functionality of biological surfaces to the technological materials. These materials are carefully selected - they are nontoxic, environmentally friendly, reusable and rewritable. And furthermore, casting methods yield zero-waste-processes - so different from various current functionalization approaches in architecture.
Inspired by the multifunctional, nanoscale-based properties of the wings of butterflies such as Greta oto, we have developed a concept for nanostructures that induce water to flow off in specific, user defined patterns - this could be used as a design element in glass surfaces.
The multi-functionality of natural materials, structures and processes yields improvements concerning the appliance of nanoscale coatings, including amongst others UV-light protection, antireflective surfaces, self cleaning materials and bird-protective glass facades. Aside these improvements, entirely new materials can be envisaged, displaying for example emotions on facades, textiles and reversible objects - sustainable, beautiful and based on nanoscale properties inspired from living Nature!