Biomimetics – technology that imitates nature

Nature is an amazing source of solutions, which have their own applications in the technology world. Biomimetics is nothing else than imitating models and elements of nature to solve complicated humans problems. The word comes from Ancient Greek βίος (life) and μίμησις (imitation).
Everywhere around us, we can find things that were invented as a copy from nature. Living organisms, such as animals and plants, have evolved through ages and adapted to different living conditions that nowadays are an inspiration for researchers. Biomimetics has its usage in robotics, nanotechnology, the medical industry, the military as well as in everyday life.

Looking at the history, first examples of biomimetics are studies of birds to enable human flight. Leonardo da Vinci made o lot of observations and sketches inspired by nature to create projects of machines such as “flying machine” or submarine. But the concept of “biomimetics” was developed much later, in the 1950s, by the American biophysicist Otto Schmitt.

Here are some examples of nature inspiring technologies that we use today.
The most popular example of nature imitations is velcro. It was invented by Swiss engineer George de Mestral. Inspirations of Velcro was the structure of burrs, which were sticking to his dog’s hair during the walk. Mestral noticed under the microscope tiny hooks at the end of the burr’s spines that allowed it to attach itself to many things. He replicated this structure synthetically and it became a popular shoe and clothing fastener.

The Shinkansen Bullet Train was inspired by Kingfisher birds. The fastest train in the world had a problem with noise. Every time it emerged from a tunnel, air pressure changes produced large thunder claps. Engineers decided to model front-end of the train after the beak of kingfishers, as they can travel smoothly between two different mediums: water and air to catch fishes. Such a solution not only solved the problem with the noise but also resulted in less electricity usage.

In the technology world, we can also find devices using echolocations inspired by bats and dolphins. Researchers investigate also mosquitoes bites to create better needles to make it less painful. Another animals, like gecko and octopus, were an inspiration of suction cups.

Looking around and making careful observations of nature, humans can create new devices, materials and technologies. We can learn a lot from animals and plants around us. For more interesting applications of biomimetics go to the links below.

– by Milena G. –