PhD: BIOinMECH: the mechanics of bio-inspired processes, a multiscale study of multifunctional systems

Starting: 2017

With no more than a couple of thousand years of experience, humans have developed innovative geotechnical techniques for a variety of engineering problems. In contrast, nature has had the benefit of several billion years to evolve the manner in which flora and fauna engineer the subsurface.


This proposal seeks to study nature’s solutions for foundation anchorage and fluid flow in contrast to what humans have done, and then to identify enhancements that humans could better exploit in the future, through deliberate mimicking. In particular, we will study selected aspects of root-soil interactions, root system architecture and other biological networks, to discover significant potential in the emerging field of bio-geotechnics.


In particular, the specific focus of the project is to study root-soil interaction, root system deployment and biological network adaptation, using the unique and complementary expertise of both partners. The project consists of three work packages:


  • The first work package investigates the interaction of plants with their underground environment, more specifically root growth under varying geometric and environmental constraints, and the consequent effects on soil micro-structure.
  • The second work package takes observations of real root systems as model to suggest innovative engineering technical solutions for foundation anchorage. To this end, root analogues will be designed and tested in soil with experimental analysis both at the macro-scale (overall strength) and at the grain scale (effect of root texture on near soil micro-structure).
  • Work package three deals with the processes driving the growth and transformation of fluid flow networks. The objective is to take inspiration from natural systems that aim to optimize resource gathering (such as root networks, slime mold, etc.) and apply this to optimize flow network deployment, accommodation and adaptation in a porous geomaterial.

Wheat root growth test, image analysis and root system architecture calibration (on left: image processing of root growth on agar gel; on right: root system architecture simulation with or without water source, and with or without cut branches)

Experiments from Retter et al. (unpublished); simulations from Jin and Arson (unpublished)

This project involves a collaboration between the 3SR lab and the Georgia Institute of Technology

PI: Luc Sibille; Co-PI: Chloé Arson; PhD student: Floriana Anselmucci

<< back