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Natural Material Innovation

Sustainable Living
the 8th Plant Biomechanics International Conference report (Darshil Shah)

Darshil Shah presented a paper on ‘Probing the role of xylan in irreversible deformation of stems of Arabidopsis thalianaat the 8th Plant Biomechanics International Conference in Nagoya, Japan which took place from 30 Nov – 5 Dec 2015.


There were over 250 participants at the conference for interdisciplinary exchanges, at the interfaces of materials science, engineering, mechanics, biology and physics, around the evolved ability of plants and plant materials (i.e. polymeric cell wall, and natural composite wood) to adapt to mechanical challenges. The conference was a great opportunity to meet and interact with a different audience and experts, and draw useful information and contacts for future projects (such as on biomimetic and bioinspired materials), learn about novel measurement techniques that may be applicable to other fields of materials science, etcetera. There were a total of 121 oral presentations over four days, including half-a-day dedicated to a ‘Young Scientist Forum’ in which Darshil presented. Presentations were in a variety of tracks and categories, with our specific interest being on moisture transport and drying of wood, cell wall structure-property-function relations, and bio-inspiration for technical applications.


Our research group’s (Centre for Natural Material Innovation, Cambridge University) paper was very well received, with particular interest generated on the robust experimental methodology we adopted to measure mechanical properties of stems. This has given us confidence on the relevance and importance of a review paper we are about to submit which evaluates existing approaches to measure stem properties and provide recommendations for best practices.


On the fifth day of the conference, Darshil visited the Ise Jingu shrine, the oldest and most revered Shinto shrine in Japan. Notably, the buildings in the sanctuary are traditional wooden structures, constructed using Japanese Cypress. Seeing traditional wood construction methods for bridges and buildings was very interesting .

 Darshil Conference trip

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