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  • Writer's pictureAnuja Vartak

Biomimicry- A Secret to Survival

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

Biomimicry. Image source: Google Images.

What if aeroplanes were never invented? We’d still be struggling and investing our entire energy in travelling from one continent to another. We would have probably not even been half as tech-savvy as we are today due to lack of accessibility. So the credit goes not just to Wright brothers, but also those pigeons who were a huge inspiration for the brothers in the making of the first aircraft.

Let’s make it even more straightforward and relatable. Do you remember those treks where on returning home, you’d realise that your clothes were fully covered with spiny seeds? The inspiration behind the design of ‘velcro’ is nothing but those spiny seeds (burrs) of the burdock plant.

Making of the velcro. Image source: Google Images.

Today there is a whole new branch of science and design put together called biomimicry which was first developed during the 1950s by an American biophysicist named Otto Schmitt, and was later popularised by the renowned writer Janine Benyus. With rapid technological advancement and demand for resources, biomimicry which is based on adaptability, energy efficiency and aesthetics, is, in fact, one of our major sustainable solutions to save our planet! Let’s find out how!

Inspiration derived from an organism’s body/nest structure:

The chief engineer of Japan’s bullet train (the fastest train in the world), was also an avid bird-watcher. The bullet train’s final design was influenced by the beak structure of a kingfisher, which made it aerodynamic and resulted in a less noisy and a highly energy-efficient train.

Making of the bullet train. Image source: Google Images.

Other prominent examples are, polar bear fur inspired design, to make thermal collectors and clothing; the light refractive properties of a moth’s eye to reduce the reflectivity of solar panels; the passive cooling architecture of termite mounds to design houses for humans.

Inspiration derived from an organism’s behaviour:

The behavioural level is based on the fact that several organisms have learnt to operate within limited environmental resources (energy and material availability) and specific conditions. For instance, the ability of a spider to squeeze through tight spaces has made it an ideal reference model to create robots that make way through the rubble after a disaster to locate survivors. Although still a prototype, scientists and designers strongly believe that these robots could be easily replicated using 3D printers and would be a feasible and safe alternative to deal with various catastrophes.

Prototype of spider as a solution to disaster management. Image source: Google Images.

In short, the basis of biomimicry, which is a nature-inspired design approach, lies in the idea that nature has already solved many of the problems we are facing today. The subject uses ecological standards to judge the accuracy of human innovations, also keeping in mind sustainability as a vital parameter. Through scientific research, we have learned that animals, plants, and microbes are excellent engineers. With this modern branch, the hope for human survival in synchronization with nature remains strong!

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