Marília Sonego

Life Sciences

Marília Sonego is a materials engineer who, like any good scientist, saw a complex problem amid a routine experiment. Her project examines an apparent contradiction of the hedgehog, the shell of the versatile Brazil nut. Although the hedgehog has evolved to resist, a close examination of its structure under a microscope reveals numerous cracks and empty spots. And it was at a family lunch, when listening to a story about her father’s misadventure with a chestnut, that the engineer had the insight that guided part of her academic efforts. Can the strategic distribution of voids or cracks in a structure strengthen a material instead of weakening it?

Graduated in materials engineering from the Federal University of São Carlos, Sonego completed her master’s and doctorate studies at UFSC. In postgraduate studies, she attended Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht and Technische Universität Berlin in Germany. She is currently a professor at the Federal University of Itajubá, where she continues to investigate biomimicry. This approach seeks to apply the strategies and structures developed by natural selection to contemporary problems. To find balance, Sonego practices acrobatic fabric, dances forró and paints watercolours.


How can the cracks in the Brazil nut fruit function as toughening mechanisms, resulting in an extraordinary protective capsule?
Science / Life Sciences

Biomimetic studies attempt to identify, understand and apply strategies developed by nature over billions of years of evolution to solve current problems. The fruit of the Brazil nut, popularly known as hedgehog, is a remarkable biological capsule that evolved to protect the seeds against predators and falls from up to 50 meters high. Studies of this hedgehog’s microstructure and mechanical behaviour can inspire new materials with high mechanical strength, tenacity and low density. The most exciting thing is that the hedgehog has numerous cracks, voids or defects throughout its thickness. It’s as if this fruit that is so difficult to open is already naturally broken. Is there a way to distribute cracks and defects throughout a structure in a way that improves mechanical performance rather than compromising it?

Amount invested

Grant Serrapilheira: R$ 320.000,00
Grant Fapemig: R$ 440.000,00

Open Calls

Science Call 6