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New Concepts in Bioinspired Engineering from Extracted Tree Root Principles
* 1, 2 , 2 , 2
1  Department of Building Construction, University of Applied Arts Vienna
2  Department of Biology, The University of Akron, USA
Academic Editor: Xu Hou


Tree root systems are multifunctional plant elements that could serve as biomimetic role models for anchoring and supply systems in engineering. A previous study has established an analogy framework for the design of building foundations and coastal resilience. Due to their underground existence, research on root morphology is largely based on time-consuming and tedious manual or semi-automated processes.

In a reverse biomimetic approach, the methods of photogrammetry and parametric design were applied to the morphological analysis of coarse tree root systems, and gradually refined to produce 3D models to reliably extract design principles. Ten different root specimens across four different tree species were imaged in the field and reconstructed virtually through photogrammetry. A parametric algorithm then analyzed the generated 3D models and extracted their skeleton to access the system's topology and morphological traits (such as volume, surface area, radius, curvature, and branching angles).

Topological information together with traits provide information about biological diversity across species and allow for the identification of key strategies for root performance in specific environments. Based on the abstracted design principles, functional transfer to the conceptual design of novel bio-inspired infrastructure is carried out.

For the applicability of basic root design principles, such as the number of branches and branching angle, to the function of anchoring, a pull-out study in a granular medium was carried out. Further conceptual proposals for the design of geotechnical infrastructure based on the biological traits are currently under development. Such exploratory studies serve to develop the potential and applicability of root-inspired infrastructure.

Keywords: Root research, biomimetics, morphology, parametric design, engineering