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16 March 2006 What can we learn from nastic plant structures? The phytomimetic potentiality of nastic structures
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While some researchers see developments on the nanotechnology scale as the major or exclusive biomimetic trend in the 21st century, others insist that the exploration of the biomimetic potentialities of macroscopic systems has hardly been started. On either scale exploration of biological systems and development of engineering materials proceed in parallel and this provides the opportunity to actively search for similar, convergent solutions and designs in both directions. Recent studies of plant motors ranging from rapid calcium-dependent shape changes in plant proteins (forisomes) to the rapid closure of Venus flytraps and the ultra- rapid opening of dogwood flowers attracted the attention of both biologists and engineers. Here we summarize the principal differences of the nanomotors and macromotors that drive plant and animal movements. Then we describe three types of hydration motors that are common in plants: osmotic, colloid, and fibrous. In engineering electroactive polymers (EAPs) have emerged as new actuation materials with large, electrically induced strain and bending capacity. It remains to be seen whether hydrated EAPs with low voltage-actuation have bioconvergent relevance and proximity to biological situations; in particular plant movements. So far we only know that (i) pH-sensitive poly-ionic polymers like pectins are a common occurrence in the primary walls and occasionally some vacuoles of plant cells, (ii), that strong electric field changes also occur in living tissues, and (iii) that some aspects of their action are not understood and remain a matter of further investigation.
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Rainer Stahlberg and Minoru Taya "What can we learn from nastic plant structures? The phytomimetic potentiality of nastic structures", Proc. SPIE 6168, Smart Structures and Materials 2006: Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD), 616802 (16 March 2006);

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