The study of metamaterials is an exciting science frontier. These are manmade materials typically not occurring in nature. They often consist of microscopic plant, plastic or metal fibers that are compressed or “jammed” together in disordered fashion. The resulting composite solid is lightweight, strong and often displays unusual physical properties. Applications include building materials, packaging and clothing. Some metamaterial textile fabrics for garments are self-cleaning, antibacterial, self-repairing, and they also are able to change color by electronic control.
Metamaterials hold great potential and yet there are many unknowns in understanding their physical behavior. To gain insight, one useful analogy is a bird nest. These lightweight structures appear fragile with mud, sticks and bits of fuzz. Still, nests hold together securely in wind and rain. A close look shows that the component twigs are woven together, some bent and under tension. Nests show us, on a large scale, the behavior of micro fibers in metamaterials.
It is often assumed that birds and their nest-building ability evolved over eons of time. In truth, however, birds appeared in abundance on Day 5 of the Creation Week, fully programmed with birdsong and nest building. Today, bird nest structures are helping us understand the technical details of metamaterial fiber structures. This is an example of biomimicry, the discovery and application of designs found in nature to produce new products and solve technical problems. The Creation is filled with similar practical design examples.
Weiner, N. et al., Mechanics of randomly packed filaments – The “bird nest” as meta-material, Journal of Applied Physics 127(5), 2020, https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.5132809