Nature Knows Best

Why it’s all about biomimetics

Back in the 14th century, a man notorious for both his artistic talent and scientific ability, studied birds in an attempt to create a machine that was capable of flight. Today, Leonardo da Vinci’s endeavour may be considered one of the early examples of biomimicry. Corresponding to the word’s Greek roots, the quickly growing field is centred on the imitation of life in a vast array of contexts .

Today, scientists, artists and and diverse groups of professionals somewhere in between the two, are taking inspiration from nature in a serious way. Why look to nature to solve human problems? Well, because nature simply seems to do things right. Besides, who’s got more than 4 billion years experience on their CV?

Nature has endowed many of its creatures and configurations with multitudes of fascinating qualities. Consider the power of the human brain, the efficiency of a honeycomb’s structure or the versatility of an elephants trunk; able to lift a single blade of grass or tear down an entire tree. Speaking of genius, according to da Vinci ¨Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.¨

If you’re new to biomimetics, you may want to check out the TED talk above by Janine Benyus. She introduces us to a bunch of amazing examples of biomimicry including Sharklet technologies’ anti bacterial products inspired by the microbe-resistant properties of sharkskin and Calera’s concrete that’s using CO2 as one of its main building blocks, much the way coral reefs do.

Since this talk was given in 2009, some of this may be old news if you’ve been keeping up to speed on the biomimicry scene. Instead, you may want to find out more about how leaf veins are inspiring new models for water and electricity distribution methods ; how mold is being  studied to create more efficient transport routes or how insects are inspiring algorithms.

While biomimicry’s being applied in many fields ranging from medicine to architecture, let’s not forget about robotics! We’ve shown you quite a few on this blog but you should also check out a wall-scaling bot from Simon Frasier University inspired by the gecko’s sticky little toes and the German robotics company, Festo’s, elephant trunk.

Maybe you’re even interested in creating some of your own biomimetic designs? AskNature’s website is working on putting together a Biomimicry Taxonomy as a means to organize how different organisms meet different types of challenges.

Biomimetic  technologies are poised  to produce major societal and economical impacts in a large number industries like ICT and sectors such as healthcare. If you’re interested in this, you won’t want to miss the Living Machines Conference being hosted by the Convergent Science Network  July 9-12 in Barcelona. The venue for the conference is  la Pedrera, designed by  the famed ( and fellow nature aficionado), Antoni Gaudí!

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