© Jürgen Gocke

Working on nature-inspired materials for a safe and sustainable future

Just imagine a future in which a ship, a car and even an airplane can heal itself after a crack appeared on its surface. That would make transportation much safer for everybody. Self-sealing materials have another distinct advantage: They can be used for a long time, thus eliminating the need to replace them. Materials with extended life spans are a key to sustainability in many areas of our lives.

Great opportunities in a Cluster of Excellence

While many can’t even imagine such a future, Naeim Ghavidelnia is actually working on it. Ghavidelnia is a doctoral researcher and part of the Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) Cluster of Excellence at the University of Freiburg. There are twelve clusters of excellence in Baden-Württemberg that receive extra funding to provide first-class training and research opportunities for young scientists from Germany and abroad.
Ghavidelnia, who is originally from Iran, is endlessly fascinated by the opportunities self-sealing materials can provide. While he is not working on specific applications, he is trying to solve a more fundamental problem. “Mechanical metamaterials are the new generation of materials with brand new properties and functionalities”, he says. He looks to nature to study how plants, animals and human cells close the gap that occurs after an injury. He then programs materials to have similar abilities. “Metamaterials and programmable metamaterials are the future of material science.”


Collaborating fosters new approaches

Ghavidelnia has done his undergraduate and graduate work in mechanical engineering and solid mechanics in Iran and wanted to continue his career in the field of mechanical metamaterials. The Cluster of Excellence livMatS at the University of Freiburg turned out to be the perfect opportunity: “The research areas “Energy Autonomy”, “Adaptivity”, “Longevity”, “Sustainability and Societal Implications” and “Demonstrators” work very closely together and conduct successful and worthwhile research”, he says. ”Also, livMatS is very well connected to other research groups, universities, and institutes in Baden-Württemberg as well as to research groups all over the world. This offers great opportunities for collaborations and exchanges.”

Balancing career and leisure time

Doing research for his doctorate degree in Baden-Württemberg has turned out to be the right choice: “Baden-Württemberg is one of the leading research areas in Europe and there is a lot of opportunities for scientists to continue their professional research in various fields of study”, Ghavidelnia says.
But not only the career opportunities delighted him: “I received a very warm welcome from my colleagues when I arrived in Freiburg. Everybody was so nice and friendly.” His German language skills weren’t that good in the beginning, so he was happy that his colleagues helped him with registrations and other administrative task. “Last but not least, I really like the city and the green environment of Freiburg. It keeps me happy.”


Author: Siri Schubert