Bio-inspired geotechnical engineering: Principles, current work, opportunities and challenges

Alejandro Martinez, Jason DeJong, Idil Akin, Ali Aleali, Chloe Arson, Jared Atkinson, Paola Bandini, Tugce Baser, Rodrigo Borela, Ross Boulanger, Matthew Burrall, Yuyan Chen, Clint Collins, Douglas Cortes, Sheng Dai, Theodore DeJong, Emanuela Del Dottore, Kelly Dorgan, Richard Fragaszy, J. David FrostRobert Full, Majid Ghayoomi, Daniel I. Goldman, Nicholas Gravish, Ivan L. Guzman, James Hambleton, Elliot Hawkes, Michael Helms, David Hu, Lin Huang, Sichuan Huang, Christopher Hunt, Duncan Irschick, Hai Thomas Lin, Bret Lingwall, Alen Marr, Barbara Mazzolai, Benjamin McInroe, Tejas Murthy, Kyle O'Hara, Marianne Porter, Salah Sadek, Marcelo Sanchez, Carlos Santamarina, Lisheng Shao, James Sharp, Hannah Stuart, Hans Henning Stutz, Adam Summers, Julian Tao, Michael Tolley, Laura Treers, Kurtis Turnbull, Rogelio Valdes, Leon Van Paassen, Gioacchino Viggiani, Daniel Wilson, Wei Wu, Xiong Yu, Junxing Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A broad diversity of biological organisms and systems interact with soil in ways that facilitate their growth and survival. These interactions are made possible by strategies that enable organisms to accomplish functions that can be analogous to those required in geotechnical engineering systems. Examples include anchorage in soft and weak ground, penetration into hard and stiff subsurface materials and movement in loose sand. Since the biological strategies have been 'vetted' by the process of natural selection, and the functions they accomplish are governed by the same physical laws in both the natural and engineered environments, they represent a unique source of principles and design ideas for addressing geotechnical challenges. Prior to implementation as engineering solutions, however, the differences in spatial and temporal scales and material properties between the biological environment and engineered system must be addressed. Current bio-inspired geotechnics research is addressing topics such as soil excavation and penetration, soil-structure interface shearing, load transfer between foundation and anchorage elements and soils, and mass and thermal transport, having gained inspiration from organisms such as worms, clams, ants, termites, fish, snakes and plant roots. This work highlights the potential benefits to both geotechnical engineering through new or improved solutions and biology through understanding of mechanisms as a result of cross-disciplinary interactions and collaborations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-705
Number of pages19
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • anchors & anchorages
  • in situ testing
  • penetrometers
  • piles & piling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Bio-inspired geotechnical engineering: Principles, current work, opportunities and challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this