Biomaterials and biomimicry

IFM's biomaterials and biomimicry research aims to use naturally occurring elements and processes as a catalyst for solving complex human problems.
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Biomaterials can be derived from nature or synthesised in the laboratory using chemical approaches. This involves polymers, ceramics, composite materials or metallic components.

Our research in the area of soft (polymeric) biomaterials focuses on improved production of haematopoietic stem cells and development of a new method for large-scale production of short nanofibres.

In the area of metallic biomaterials, our research aims to improve the biocompatibility and bioactivity of implants, such as artificial joints, bone plates and stents.


Biomimicry or biomimetics is the imitation of the models, systems and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. Biomimicry can play an important role in the design and development of new materials and structures.

Taking cues from the caterpillar

Dr Charanpreet Singh has developed an innovative knitted stent design with significantly better biomechanical properties than currently available products. Unlike conventional stents, which are usually constructed from metal alloys and have problems of limited flexibility and kink resistance, the new design has a knitted structure using polymer fibres, which gives much greater flexibility.

The novel design was inspired by observations of caterpillars and how their skin expands and contracts to help them move, providing a balance between structural support with elasticity and flexibility.

Dr Alessandra Sutti - Biomaterials

Dr Alessandra Sutti discusses how the Institute for Frontier Materials is contributing to short fibres research and how their discoveries could impact the textile and medical industries.

Our research

3D scaffolds for haematopoietic stem cell research

We are addressing the major challenge in the field of haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) biology by developing systems that support HSC self renewal and controlled differentiation in vitro.

We are developing integrated bioreactors and 3D scaffolds with high biomimicry for HSC selection from umbilical cord blood and expansion in vitro. These scaffolds will allow greater levels of control over cell fate, enable large volume processing and expansion of HSC and can be tailored to other stem cell applications.

Biocompatible and bioactive surfaces

Our research in this area focuses on understanding the interaction of the surface of metallic biomaterials with biological cells. We also focus on developing micro and nano surface modifications on metallic biomaterials to enhance their biocompatibility and bioactivity.

Biodegradable magnesium alloys

Magnesium alloys are receiving increasing attention as new biodegradable implant materials for orthopaedic applications. However, challenges due to poor mechanical performance and low corrosion resistance mean we need to develop new Mg alloys using strengthening alloying elements.

Short nanofibres

IFM is leading the development of a new class of nanomaterials known as short nanofibres. Our research is focused on:

  • developing a new method for large-scale, low-cost production of short nanofibres
  • building a pilot plant for large-scale short nanofibre production
  • establishing and demonstrating novel applications for short nanofibres with a focus on areas such as high-level filtration of small particulates, tissue engineering and enzymes.

Titanium and its alloy scaffolds

Titanium and some of its alloys are widely accepted by human bone tissue as load-bearing implants. However, their stiffness is a problem that leads to eventual failure. We are developing new, more flexible titanium alloys using biocompatible titanium in a porous structure.

Featured researcher

Dr Jin Zhang is a materials scientist with extensive expertise in fibre-reinforced composites, polymer matrix nano-composites and biological composite materials. She completed her PhD in 2007 and, most recently, has been working on an Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded discovery project aimed at gaining a better understanding of the composite structures of silkworm cocoons. Dr Zhang’s research explores the intriguing composite structure of the cocoons, which have evolved over millions of years. A better understanding of this material will provide a solid knowledge base for bio-mimicking this structure in areas like thermal insulation and lightweight protection garments.

Contact us

Senior Research Fellow
Dr Alessandra Sutti
+61 3 5227 1156
Email Dr Sutti