Plain Language Summary
This research studies the structures of flight feathers via a multi-disciplinary approach focusing on the biological build (bio-architecture) and molecular control of bird feathers. By comparing the evolution of feathers of the past and the present, the advancement of feathers from a simple filamentous appendage into a three-level structure with multi-dimension functionality was observed. Such evolution of the flight mode adaptation displayed both complexification and simplification of structural and material changes. Though contradicting, the transformation was necessary to develop a balanced feather structure for optimum flight performance of different bird groups. The study also summarized bio-architectural principles that have allowed flight feathers to be flexible, adaptable, and functional versatility.
Since feathers are crucial for a considerable number of organisms to adapt different flight modes under various eco-space, understanding the bio-architecture principles of different feathers will help in designing flight-based materials with optimal functionality. This study used a newly developed quantitative morphology field analysis (QMorF) to evaluate the biophysical properties of feathers used for different flight characteristics. These quantitative results serve as an important resource to inspire the designs and fabrication of composite materials used for various applications, such as jets, drones, satellites, missiles, and wind turbines.
The SDG Impact
The purpose and results of this study contribute significantly to “Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure” of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). As a requirement for fulfilling this goal, there is a need to upgrade infrastructures and industries to be more sustainable with increased resource-use efficiency. Since efficiency, safety, and automation are the few of the top priorities, the future designs of industrial equipment must not just be advanced but also innovative to meet these priorities. With the in-depth quantitative results and the revealed bio-architectural development from this study, numerous design possibilities offered by nature could be used as inspiration for engineers and innovation experts to rethink flight-based structural builds.