MIT Professor Lorna Gibson seeks to understand how nature engineers itself — and in doing so, inspire better human-engineered materials and structures.

Bamboo is one such interesting natural material. New insights from Prof. Gibson and her colleagues suggest that, with the right processing, bamboo can be used in innovative and benefical composite materials. As MIT News reports today:

MIT researchers have now analyzed the microstructure of bamboo and found that the plant is stronger and denser than North American softwoods like pine, fir, and spruce, making the grass a promising resource for composite materials.

“Bamboo grows extensively in regions where there are rapidly developing economies, so it’s an alternative building material to concrete and steel,” says Lorna Gibson, the Matoula S. Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. “You probably wouldn’t make a skyscraper out of bamboo, but certainly smaller structures like houses and low-rise buildings.” Read more…

Natural materials and structures play a prominent role in Prof. Gibson’s upcoming MITx course 3.032x Mechanical Behavior of Materials, which is now open for registration and begins on September 3.

Also check out Prof. Gibson’s OCW course 3.A26 Freshman Seminar: The Nature of Engineering.

And through MIT’s Open Access Articles collection, you can read the complete research paper (PDF) behind today’s news story.