By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting
If I would have chosen a different profession in life, I might have found myself working in the field of biomimicry. I find this field of study not only fascinating, but also important to the life of our planet.
The Biomimicry Institute defines biomimicry as “an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies." It is based on the fact that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with.
When we look at nature we see resilience, health, air and water, and in some cases safe emissions from plants and wildlife.
Steve Jobs once said “I think the biggest innovations of the future will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning”.
The Biomimicry Institute’s library contains information of over 1,800; living systems by functions. This educational library system is accessed as their AskNature program. Information describes how organisms adapt, grow, heal, and even survive. From this body of data, researchers are exploring the possibilities of man-made applications.
The next generation of materials could go from healing wounds to preventing infections and even to new building materials adaptable from nature.
The Biomimicry Institute believes that for more localized issues like managing waste, biomimicry may provide innovators and designers with different materials or processes that are more healthy for people and the planet.
By now you are probably curious about some examples of biomimicry.
1. The Pomelo fruit can strike the ground from 30 feet height without any sign of damage. This is possible due to the peel structure. That inspired development of an aluminum composite material being considered for use in safety applications.
2. Serrated feather shapes allow owls to fly without creating turbulence or noise. Mechanical engineers have emulated those shapes to design fans and turbines that are nearly silent.
3. Fish in schools save energy by swimming in vortices created by their neighbor fish. Researchers are using similar principles to find optimal positions of vertical-axis wind turbines.
4. Scientists in Japan and UK have studied the mouth of mosquitoes and found many moving parts. When a mosquito bites its prey, it is painless. The medical field is using this information for designing a needle for humans, that will use many parts like the mouth of mosquitoes to remove pain from injections.
This is a very small number of examples where biomimicry has been used by engineers, innovators, and designers. But there are probably countless more. And no doubt the list will continue to grow. As the Biomimicry Institute says…Innovators are full of Questions. Nature has answers.