Ceramic material from Harvard is composed of a closed-cell porous structure that mitigates impact forces.


  • Scalable
  • Fracture-resistant
  • Durable


  • Electronics
  • Bridge and building design

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Developing resource-efficient design methods will be essential as we transition into a sustainable society. Due to the limited properties of many materials, buildings and products are often designed to be high in weight, with added material to increase structural strength. Developing stronger and lighter materials could reduce the costs of our creations, both financially and environmentally.

Innovation Details

The cellular ceramic material is made of a 3D-printed ceramic foam ink. During the 3D-printing process, engineers can tune the macro- and microscale porosity, which determines the ‘stiffness’ of the material—the tendency for an element to return to its original form after being subjected to external forces. Up close, the closed-cell pores are shaped as hexagonal and triangular honeycombs. This organization allows for efficient distribution of pressure, making the material incredibly strong. Cellular ceramics could find potential applications in numerous fields, including lightweight structures, thermal insulation, tissue scaffolds, supports, and electrodes.

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Biomimicry Story

Biological hierarchical structures have to do with the assemblages of molecular units or their aggregates, where a similar feature reoccurs at different scales. There are many types of hierarchical structures in nature: bird feathers, bones, wood, stems, and more. For example, grass has a hollow, tubular macrostructure and a porous microstructure that enables the plant to bounce back after being stepped on. With intention down to microscopic arrangement, nature designs efficiently and beautifully by utilizing hierarchical structures, and so can we.