Although insect cuticle is a very common biological material, very little is known about several of its fundamental biological and biomechanical properties. For example, the capability of insect cuticle to heal and repair damage seems to have been underestimated for a long time.
A particulary interesting aspect of cuticle is the ability of several exoskeleton parts to precisely align the orientation of chitin fibres in alternating layers. The orientation of these layers is presumably controlled by the epidermal cells and affected by ambient light conditions.
In several of our research projects we are investigating the principles of cuticle growth, healing and the mechanisms determining the orientation of chitin fibres. These projects are funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in collaboration with the Max-Planck-Institute Colloids & Interfaces Potsdam, the University of Dresden, the University of Tübingen and the University of Bremen.