Research project

Motion design

Motion design for biomimetic analyses of plant movements and the design of adaptive structures.

Project description

Energy efficiency and sustainability are playing an increasingly important role in modern architecture. As a result, the demand for adaptive structures increases, which can be constantly adapted to their requirements by, for example, geometry changes and thereby saving structural weight and energy. Accordingly, the design of deployable structures is of great relevance. An example are adaptive building skins, which go through great deformations.

So far, the flexibility or deployability of structures is usually generated by local joints and hinges. This localization leads to a high susceptibility to damage and high maintenance costs. In addition, the combination of standardized systems with complex building forms is a great challenge.

On the other hand, flexibility in plants is achieved through changes in stiffness within the structure. This leads to an area that acts as a joint, the so-called elastic hinge or the structural joint.

This property of plant movement is transferred to movable structures in architecture using a biomimetic approach. In addition, new insights into the biological role model are gained with simulation methods.

Analysis of plant motions

For the application in architecture, especially the movements of orchids and the snapping mechanism of carnivorous plants come into question. The Venus flytrap and her sister, the waterwheel plant, were examined. Finite element simulations support biology hypotheses and identify possible snapshots and actuations.

simulation of the Venus flytrap (c)
simulation of the Venus flytrap
simulation of the waterwheel plant Aldrovanda (c)
simulation of the waterwheel plant Aldrovanda

Motion design

Regardless of biomimetics, motions with specific properties can be designed using a variational formulation. If requirements are placed on the non-linear deformation behavior of the structure, the movement can be found as a function of the required load. Thus, by varying the load, structures can realize different transitions between two geometries while maintaining given properties, such as an energy minimum or the fastest motion. This can be used in the design of adaptive structures in architecture as well as the qualitative and quantitative analysis of plant movements.


  1. Anna S. Westermeier, Renate Sachse, Simon Poppinga, Philipp Vögele, Lubomir Adamec, Thomas Speck, Manfred Bischoff. How the carnivorous waterwheel plant (Aldrovanda vesiculosa) snaps. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285. 2018. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0012
  2. Manfred Bischoff, Renate Sachse, Axel Körner, Anna Westermeier, Larissa Born, Simon Poppinga, Götz Gresser, Thomas Speck, Jan Knippers. Modeling and analysis of the trapping mechanism of Aldrovanda vesiculosa as biomimetic inspiration for façade elements. Proceedings of the IASS Annual Symposium 2017. Annette Bögle, Manfred Grohmann (eds.) "Interfaces:". 25-28th September, 2017, Hamburg, Germany, 2017. 2017.


Renate Sachse

Renate Sachse

Scientific Staff

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