The Biologically Inspired Materials Institute (BIMat) was established by NASA under the University Research, Engineering and Technology Institute (URETI) program in August 2002. The principal goal for BIMat researchers is to develop bio-nanotechnology materials and structures for aerospace vehicles. The team combines the talents from five of the nation’s leading research universities and institutions to advance biomolecular and biomimetic materials design, synthesis, and processing.
BIMat researchers are from:
NASA Langley Research Center (NASA/LaRC)
Northwestern University (NU)
Princeton University (PU)
University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH)
National Institute of Aerospace (NIA)
The BIMat vision is to form a cohesive, virtual institute that takes advantage of extant multidisciplinary research, education, and technology enterprises of each research team while exploiting relevant industrial partners in a focused program to create new knowledge to meet the long-term needs of NASA’s Materials Program. This URETI will be among those institutes comprising the National Institutes of Aeronautics established at NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC), thus providing NASA LaRC, with a direct window to the institute's research, education, and technology capabilities via state-of-the-art telecommunication resources.
NASA’s vision is one where in future-generation space systems will be complex,intelligent and thinking systems that can adapt, form, evolve, and generally deal with changes and unanticipated problems. High levels of capability will be achieved through highly integrated sensors, articulators, and distributed computer power. Reliability in these systems will not be a consequence of costly over design and redundancy but rather from adaptability and self-repair, just as in biological systems. To be cost-effective, these systems must be designed so as to minimize weight, since weight is often the over-riding cost issue in space missions.
Materials with orders-of-magnitude improvements in performance and reliability are a crucial element of these new space systems. Our objective is to leap over current barriers in performance-to-weight ratios and to achieve reliabilities beyond any achieved so far. However, such improvements cannot use old approaches. New concepts and approaches are prerequisite to the design of materials systems optimized for multifunctional uses that range from strengthening (stiffness and toughness) to sensing/actuating and self-healing.