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Have you ever thought about where the inspiration comes for some of the world’s most useful products? Or have you thought about how the building you may walk past everyday might have been inspired by nature? This all comes down to one word – biomimicry!
Biomimicry is the practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. One of the most famous examples of this comes from the Wright Brothers, who developed the world’s first motor-operated aeroplane. They were known to be keen bird watchers and were inspired by the wings of pigeons to develop the first example of modern aeroplanes that we see today.
We’re going to explore some impressive examples of it and talk about how it can help innovation.
Probably the most famous example of biomimicry outside of the Wrights Brothers is Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral, who noticed how the seeds of a Burdock tree stuck to his socks. He first patented the idea and development of Velcro back in 1955 and has since continued to be developed.
The Eastgate centre in Zimbabwe was built to resemble the functionality of a termite mound, as they had created systems to keep the internal structure of their mound at a consistent temperature. Through the vent system created in the structure of the Eastgate Centre, the building maintains a consistent temperature, and uses less than 10% of other equivalent building’s energy.
Did you know genetic engineers are now exploring the opportunities around human tissue regeneration thanks to discovery Axolotls can grow their own tails back? It is speculated that humans already have this ability, but it’s been “switched off”, so scientists are developing ways to turn it back on.
A huge landmark in the UK, “The Gherkin” was actually inspired by Venus flower basket sea sponge, as it has an incredibly strong structure, ensuring its stability, but also because of the way the air around it flow, halving the building’s need for air conditioning.
An iconic piece of engineering, Japan’s Bullet train was inspired by the beak of the Kingfisher. Engineers noted that whenever the bird entered the water, it did so without splashing due to shape of the beak, which then went on to inspire the design for the front of bullet trains. Because of this, bullet trains travel 10% faster and used 15% less electricity, making them more energy efficient.
It’s still in development, but engineers are discovering that wind turbine blades (and aeroplane wings and submarine fins) can reduce drag and improve lift by just over 30% if they include lumps on them inspired by the fins of the humpback whale.
By definition, biomimicry is helping innovation by taking inspiration from nature and creating new and exciting products, buildings and feats of engineering. Without biomimicry, we wouldn’t have some of the amazing things listed above.
Biomimicry is everywhere and is a fundamental part of modern innovation. Nature has been surviving and improving for thousands of years, so why not take some inspiration from it?