Research Groups

Portrait Christoph Neinhuis

Christoph Neinhuis

Biologically inspired materials research, especially plant based fiber reinforced materials and their application in engineering

Previous and Current Research

Plants evolved numerous highly optimized combinations of materials based on polysaccharides, proteins or combinations the latter with minerals. These materials have evolved as an adaptation to various environmental conditions. Until now, only a limited number of species have been investigated in detail but some of the properties may be of potential interest for engineering. Current projects study the mechanical properties of unusual tree like plants such as monocots (Aloe, Yucca, Dracaena) or hydro-actuated plants organs (papaya stems or ice plant seed capsules). A second project studies the architecture and biomechanics of the vascular system of columnar cacti as a model for new branched composite materials in light weight engineering.

Functional plant surfaces and biomimetics. Plant surfaces are multifunctional interfaces serving different purposes. We extensively studied water repellency and self-cleaning properties of a large number of plant and animal species. The results have successfully been transferred in technical materials. Currently more general anti-adhesive and adhesive properties are studied because of their large potential in technical materials such as highly non-wettable surfaces from springtails (Collembola) or the adhesive coatings of plant seeds (e.g. Peperomia)


Additional research topics

  • Molecular phylogenetics and evolution of plants
  • Floristics and nature conservation in Saxony
Christoph Neinhuis research: figure
Fig.: Unusual type of branching in a climbing cactus. Stem-branch connections are studied to improve fiber reinforced components in engineering.
Future Projects and Goals

Our approach is based on the evaluation and prospecting of the huge global biodiverstiy. Based on field research, but especially on plants from the living collections of the Botanic Garden, we are looking for unusual constructions, material combinations or functions, which may serve as models for future developments in engineering (biomimetics).

Methodological and Technical Expertise
  • Scanning electron microscopy including cryo-preservation
  • Materials testing of whole organs down to individual tissues and cells
  • Light microscopy, microtomy, and image analysis of plant tissues
  • Molecular phylogenetics and sequence analysis
Selected Publications

Kempe, A, Lautenschlaeger, T., Lange, A. Neinhuis, C.
How to become a tree without wood – Biomechanical analysis of the stem of papaya (Carica papaya L.)
Plant Biology. published online 8. May 2013, DOI: 10.1111/plb.12035 (2013)

Hensel, R. Helbig, R., Neinhuis, C, & Werner, C.
Tunable nano-replication to explore the omniphobic characteristics of springtail skin
NPG Asia Materials 5, e37; doi:10.1038/am.2012.66 (2013)

Harrington M. J., K. Razghandi, F. Ditsch, L. Guiducci, M. Rueggeberg, J W. C. Dunlop, P. Fratzl, C. Neinhuis & I. Burgert
Origami-like unfoldung of hydro.actuated icce plant seed capsules.
Nature Comm. 2:337, doi:10.1038/ncomms1336 (2011)

Schwager, H., Haushahn, T., Neinhuis, C., Speck, T. & Masselter, T.
Principles of branching morphology and anatomy in arborescent monocotyledons and columnar cacti as concept generators for branched fibre-reinforced composites.
Advanced Engineering Materials, 12:B695–698 (2010)

Barthlott, W. & C. Neinhuis
The purity of sacred lotus or escape from contamination in biological surfaces
Planta 202: 1-8 (1997)


since 2002
Professor for Botany at the TU Dresden, Germany

Professor for Botany at the University of Cologne

awarded by the Philip-Morris-Foundation


Doctoral Thesis at the University of Bonn

Biology (Diploma) at the University of Bonn


Department of Biology
Chair for Botany
Technische Universität Dresden
Zellescher Weg 20b
01217 Dresden