Autonomously shaping natural climbing plants: a bio-hybrid approach

Mostafa Wahby, Mary Katherine Heinrich, Daniel Nicolas Hofstadler, Ewald Neufeld, Igor Kuksin, Payam Zahadat, Thomas Schmickl, Phil Ayres, Heiko Hamann

Publications: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Plant growth is a self-organized process incorporating distributed sensing, internal communication and morphology dynamics. We develop a distributed mechatronic system that autonomously interacts with natural climbing plants, steering their behaviours to grow user-defined shapes and patterns. Investigating this bio-hybrid system paves the way towards the development of living adaptive structures and grown building components. In this new application domain, challenges include sensing, actuation and the combination of engineering methods and natural plants in the experimental set-up. By triggering behavioural responses in the plants through light spectra stimuli, we use static mechatronic nodes to grow climbing plants in a user-defined pattern at a two-dimensional plane. The experiments show successful growth over periods up to eight weeks. Results of the stimuli-guided experiments are substantially different from the control experiments. Key limitations are the number of repetitions performed and the scale of the systems tested. Recommended future research would investigate the use of similar bio-hybrids to connect construction elements and grow shapes of larger size.
Original languageEnglish
Article number180296
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Distributed Control
  • Natural Plants
  • Self-organisation
  • Biotechnology
  • Bio-hybrid
  • Adaptive Construction

Artistic research

  • No

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