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

by Martinez, A., et al
Article DOI:


Martinez, A. et al. Géotechnique []


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 andweak 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.


Anchors and anchorages Insitu testing Penetrometers Piles and piling