Lorna J. Gibson




Many materials have a cellular structure, with either a two-dimensional array of prismatic cells, as in a honeycomb, or a three-dimensional array of polyhedral cells, as in a foam. Engineering honeycombs and foams can now be made from nearly any material: polymers, metals, ceramics, glasses and composites, with pore sizes ranging from nanometers to millimeters. Their cellular structure gives rise to a unique combination of properties which are exploited in engineering design: their low weight make them attractive for structural sandwich panels, their ability to undergo large deformations at relatively low stresses make them ideal for absorbing the energy of impacts, their low thermal conductivity make them excellent insulators, and their high specific surface area make them attractive for substrates for catalysts for chemical reactions. Cellular materials are increasingly used in biomedical applications. Open-cell titantium foams are being developed to replace trabecular bone. Porous scaffolds for regeneration of damaged or diseased tissues often resemble an open-cell foam. Cellular materials are also widespread in nature in plant and animal tissues: examples include wood, cork, plant parenchyma, trabecular bone and lung alveoli.

Our group has contributed to the understanding of the mechanics of cellular solids, as well as to their use in many of the above applications. Recently completed projects include: the design and characterization of osteochondral scaffolds for the regeneration of cartilage as well as the underlying bone; the mechanics of fluid flow through open-cell foams for protection from impacts; and low thermal conductivity aerogels for building applications.  Current project include: structural bamboo products and the mechanics of balsa and balsa-inspired engineering materials.

Selected Publications


Gibson, L.J., Ashby, M.F. and Harley, B.A. (2010) Cellular Materials in Nature and Medicine. Cambridge University Press.

Ashby, M.F., Evans, A.G., Fleck, N.A., Gibson, L.J., Hutchinson, J.W., and Wadley, H.N.G. (2000) Metal Foams: A Design Guide, Butterworth Heinemann.

Gibson, L.J. and Ashby, M.F. (1997) Cellular Solids: Structure and Properties. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press.


Dixon PG and Gibson LJ (2014) Structure and mechanics of Moso bamboo material.  J Roy Soc Interface, available online.

Gibson LJ (2012) The hierarchical structure and mechanics of plant materials. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 9, 2749-66.

Gibson, L.J., (2005) Biomechanics of cellular solids (Invited Review), J. Biomech., 38, 377–399.

Aerogels for Building Applications:

Chen K, Neugebauer A, Goutierre T, Tang A, Glicksman LR and Gibson LJ (2014) Mechanical and thermal performance of aerogel-filled sandwich panels for building insulation. Energy and Buildings 76, 336–346.

A. Neugebauer, K. Chen,, A. Tang, A. Allgeier , L.R. Glicksman, L.J. Gibson (2014) Thermal conductivity and characterization of compacted, granular silica aerogel. Energy and Buildings, 79C 47-57.

Curriculum Vitae

Related News

Professor Gibson named a MacVicar Fellow
Four MIT professors have been named 2015 MacVicar Faculty Fellows, awarded for exceptional undergraduate teaching, mentoring, and educational innovation.
March 13, 2015
Studying bamboo structure
Professor Lorna Gibson and her colleagues study bamboo for engineered building material, similar to plywood.
July 23, 2014
3.032x Mechanical Behavior of Materials, starts Sept. 3
Why do materials deform and break? How does nature engineer materials to be light yet stiff and strong?
July 17, 2014
Tree Mob at Arnold Arboretum
Professor Lorna Gibson will present a short talk about the properties of cattail leaves at the Arnold Arboretum on Wednesd
August 27, 2013
ILP Profile of Professor Gibson
March 1, 2013
Wood as Material: lecture at Arnold Arboretum
On October 3, Professor Lorna Gibson will give a talk on wood and how its structure and properties are used in boat-building.
September 28, 2012
Mechanical Properties of Plants
Professor Lorna Gibson is researching the mechanical properties of plants:  Plants are made up of just 4 basic building blocks (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin and pectin - yes, the stuff you use
August 14, 2012
Prof. Gibson to present Wulff Lecture
Cellular Materials in Engineering, Nature, and Medicine Prof. Lorna J. Gibson  
October 27, 2011
New book by Prof. Gibson available Sept. 2010
Cellular Materials in Nature and Medicine, Lorna J. Gibson, Michael F. Ashby, and Brendan A.
May 13, 2010

Related Events

Cellular Materials in Nature, Engineering, and Medicine
Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm

Engineering honeycombs and foams, wood, plant stems and leaves, trabecular bone (a porous type of bone), and tissue engineering scaffolds all have a cellular structure that gives rise to unique pro