An example of such natural inspirations is the toucan’s beak. This is a great natural phenomenon that has attracted much attention from material engineers as they try to study its properties and understand the factors behind its unique features.
The toucan’s beak is long and thick, and is perceived to be heavy for the bird though it is relatively light despite its size (Seki, Kad Benson & Meyers, 2006). The toucan’s beak is a third of the bird’s length, about 1/20 it’s mass, and has been proven to possess great stiffness (Seki, Schneider & Meyers, 2005). A study of the bird’s beak found it to be made of a sandwich composite with keratin on its outside and close calcium cells rich proteins making a fibrous network (Seki, Schneider & Meyers, 2005). Moreover, the closed cell making the bird’s beak has fibers with a young modulus of more than twice as high as the keratin shell on the outside due to the calcium content. Therefore, such biological materials when well-studied inspires engineers to come up with materials that correspond to the beak, which incidentally would offer similar characteristics and qualities in engineering materials , resulting to superior materials for specific usage. For example the length of a toucan’s beak and its size in relation to its light weight inspire engineers to come up with martials with a keratin coating on the outside, fibrous networks on the inside, plus an added calcium layer to achieve the strength and flexibility portrayed by a toucan bird, but still meet the need to have such a large component with light weight.
In the construction industry where flexible materials are essential, such toucan’s beak offers a great inspiration for engineers to come up with similar materials, which will offer more flexibility, will be much light compared to its size, will possess great strength, and which will absorb high impacts (Biomimicry Institute 2013).