Biomimicry: putting nature’s lessons into practice

Biomimicry offers "choices" to human engineering models tested by nature that took millions of years to understand what works best and what doesn't. Meet some of these projects that have been successfully copied!

Biomimicry is the technology that seeks the day-to-day, wisdom and the models of success created by Nature.

The term "biomimicry" is of Greek origin and comes from the junction of "bios" (life) with "mimesis" (imitation).

Biomimicry concerns many sectors of human activity. From medicine to research, industry, economy, architecture, and urban planning, agriculture and management.

Animals and plants have been able to survive for so many millions of years because they are well structured. They act together, are supportive, and use only the energy they need, with no negative impact on mother nature.

According to Biologist, researcher, and writer, Janine Benyus who popularized the term biomimicry: "To solve the challenges faced by society, we must learn through the teachings of nature, so that we can create more sustainable products, processes, and policies and thus save and heal ourselves and the planet." 

She states that Biomimicry is an area of science that sees nature, from 3 fundamental principles:

  1. A model. It studies nature’s models and imitates them or uses them as inspiration for designs or processes to solve human problems.
  2. A measure. It uses ecological standards to judge the rightness of human innovations.
  3. A mentor. It is a new way of observing, assessing, and valuing nature. 

      Biomimicry applied in industry

      Some examples of nature copied by industry:

      Butterfly

      The black wings of the rose butterfly have tiny cells that can store light at any angle. This capability inspired scientists to create a new type of solar cell that is economical and twice as efficient at harvesting light.

      Gecko

      Climbing pads capable of supporting human weight are a mimic of the biomechanics of gecko feet. The copied grip is so powerful that it allows the person to climb a glass wall.

      Mountaineering gloves also can support human weight: mimicry of the biomechanics of the gecko's toes make it an excellent climber

      Bird

      The prototypes of the Japanese bullet train created a sonic explosion as it came out of a tunnel, which caused many auditive problems to its passengers.

      An engineer at the company responsible for manufacturing noted that the "Kingfisher" bird was able to dive beak-in water to catch fish, without leaving any ripples.

      The new design altered the beak of the bullet train just like the bird's beak. The train got 10% faster, with 15% less electricity expenditure, and stopped presenting the sound explosion of before.

      Termite

      Termite mounds are always moist, keeping the room temperature always stable, due to a complex network of chambers and passages. 

      Thus, the termite cooling system inspired architects to reduce air-conditioning energy expenditure in large buildings. 

      Shark

      The study of shark skin is at the origin of particularly effective swimming suits, as well as a varnish for planes fuselage.

      By examining the biological processes of shark skin, NASA scientists were able to copy the microscopic patterns of ventricles to create a ‘riblets’ film. Comparable to shark skin ventricles, the film reduces drag and deters microorganisms (such as algae) attaching to the surface. 

      Wale

      The humpback whale is very heavy, yet it is one of the most elegant swimmers, divers, and jumpers in the sea. These aerodynamic abilities are greatly attributed to the bumpy protrusions on the front of its fins, called tubercles. 

      Similar to the processes of aircraft wings, whales use their fins at different steepening angles to increase their lift. So their aerodynamics allow them an incredible mobility successfully copied by the aviation industry.

      Spider

      It is estimated that 100 million birds die every year as a result of flying into the glass. The reason is simple although tragic: they do not recognize the transparent structure as a physical barrier.

      To solve this issue, a company developed a glass from the UV reflective strands accordingly spider webs. Happily, the glass now can be seen by those distracted flying birds. 

      Carrapicho Plant

      Velcro is perhaps the world's best-known idea developed from nature. The biomimicry discovery after a walk. Swiss scientist George de Mestral realized that he and his dog has many micro balls with thorns attached on them.

      After observing those tiny balls under the microscope, he noticed they were fixed because of their tips with the hooks of the carrapicho plant. Voilà! The idea of the Velcro fabric was brought up to help humanity!

      Lotus Flower

      This plant turned out to be the symbol of spiritual purity because of its ability to stay clean, no matter how dirty environment is.

      When water drops fall on the plant, they turn into a spherical shape and thus slide easily down the leaves with dirt and microorganisms. The phenomenon, then was named by scientists as the "Lotus Effect".

      It became an inspiration for the development of paints, glasses, self-cleaning fabrics, and, mainly, in the production of cosmetics with various aims.

        The cosmetics market is the one that benefits the most from biomimicry

        The "Lotus Effect" is adopted in the cosmetic market mostly in skin cleanses.

        This extraordinary plant’s ability shows how to achieve deeper layers of the skin, allowing a great deal of nutrients and maximum protection.

        So-called "stem plants" allowed the development of emulsions and makeups that protect skin against extreme conditions of humidity, low temperature, and ultraviolet rays (UV).

        Here some probable upcoming technologies inspired on these following animals skills:

        • Frog/Flea - the technology of jumping several times more than its size.

        • Chameleon/Owl - the technology of camouflage to get rid of imminent danger.

        • Ant/Bee - the technology of carrying more than 100 times the weight of its body as well as living in a perfectly organized community, controlled by an effective leader.

        • Hummingbird/Dragonfly - the technology of stopping in the air indefinitely, differently from helicopters, and so on...

        In the context of Biomimicry, Lavoisier could add to his most known citation that echoes to date, the following: "In Nature, nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything is transformed as well as COPIED".

        That’s the idea. The biomimicry philosophy is another global strategy of responsible and sustainable developments according to nature's successful examples.

        Greenco learns with nature's lessons and so it produces natural and good stuff. Check here.