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Structural composition provides strength in changing conditions: plants


Ficus leaf cross section, ~40x / Orange Coast.. / LicenseCC-by-nc - Attribution Non-commercial

The cell walls of vascular plants provide mechanical strength during different stages of growth by adjusting their structural composition.

"Plant cells need to be fully hydrated to work properly (except in periods of dormancy, as for example in many seeds). Individual vegetative cells in plants, unlike those in animals, are encased in a cellulose cell wall. The cellulose cell wall may be very thin, in cells that are actively dividing, as for example, in growing shoot or root tips. However, once developed into their mature form, the cell walls may become thicker, and additional substances, mainly lignins, incorporated into their structure. The cells themselves, then, contribute to the mechanical strength of the plant. Thin-walled cells when fully hydrated, are like small, pressurised containers. Mature cells, especially those with thick walls, have mechanical strength of their own, even without watery contents. Indeed, many fibres lack living contents when mature." (Cutler 2005:98)
About the inspiring organism
Med_eukaryota_cell_strucutre Plantae

Learn more at
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Example of how elements that serve one purpose can be adapted or incorporated to serve a later functional purpose within the same context: e.g., scaffolding that becomes part of a building's frame or materials whose thickness can fluctuate based on changing temperatures or load-bearing requirements.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction, structural engineering

Cutler, DF. 2005. Design in plants. In: Collins, MW; Atherton, MA; Bryant, JA, editors. Nature and Design. Southampton, Boston: WIT Press. p 95-124
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