From velcro to robots, scientists have been mimicking nature to make the world better. Inventions that mimic nature use biomimicry to sustain us, as well as the world.
Burrs, termites, and carbohydrates are inspiring people to look at nature for solutions in engineering, building, computing, and life.
Biomimicry is taking the ability to understand nature and finding a way to emulate it so that we can keep connected to it. It’s about seeing what is in the natural world and how it works in synchronicity and coming up with ways to sustain the ecosystem, without robbing it to do so.
How it all starts
One day a mechanical engineer is walking his dog in the Alps. As he’s picking burrs off of his wool socks, instead of staying annoyed, he decides this could be a great way to fasten things. Voila! Velcro!
Velcro is utilized in everything from wallets to spacecraft. All from a walk in the woods.
An architect in Zimbabwe designed an office building based on the structures built by termites. Using a large chimney cool air is drawn up at night to the floor slabs and during the hottest parts of the day, the floor slabs remain cool.
Beavers, sharks, whales, and birds, all have inspired advancements in wetsuits, swimwear, wind turbines, and airplanes.
It all starts with nature.
Where it’s going
For the past 20 years, Carnegie Mellon University has been working on snake robots. They aren’t for getting rid of mice and rats, but their intended use would be as search and rescue instruments.
The snake robots could be used to get into tight spots, like the rubble of buildings, to help locate people and get them help. They have the ability to navigate wet and grainy surfaces better than individuals, animals, or other robots.
Robotic birds can be used to keep flocks of birds away from airports. Manta rays robots can be used like underwater drones to explore the bottom of the oceans. Even cockroaches are being mimicked to use in law enforcement, and space exploration.
Nanoparticles that replicate how carbohydrates are delivered in our bloodstream are used to help drug delivery throughout our bodies, “Gecko tape” is used for surgery instead of staples, and Sharklet Technologies has taken inspiration from the antibacterial skin of the shark to produce surgical equipment and instruments.
It goes back to nature.
Where it will be
Nature has always been an inspiration for humankind. We have buildings dedicated to it, museums, zoos, and galleries.
Shark skin is naturally antibiotic, lotus leaves are hydrophobic, and butterfly wings have scales like shingles that reduce drag and help their wings stay clean. Humans benefit but are also a source of inspiration.
From the camera lens to DNA, humans may be one of the greatest creatures to mimic. Computers created using the human genome as a basis create “biochips”. A computer that grows and learns as the processor work, and requires less energy to run than the supercomputers of old.
With our technologies and demands increasing and our goals of sustainability ever present, biomimicry allows us the ability to work with nature and not against it. It gives us the tools to continue to make our lives easier and healthier.
The whole of nature holds an infinite amount of possibilities for the future. It’s just around the corner and it’s all about nature.