Biomimicry

By Aditya Khanduri Web-Dew_shutterstock_125644733-e1362090536744 The term biomimicry comes from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, which means to imitate. In very simple terms it is looking at nature for solving problems that humans face today. Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature. The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with, because of the trial and error Research & development that it has been conducting for the past 3.8 billion years. It is not a new idea. Humans have been looking at nature for answers to both complex and simple problems throughout our existence. It is also referred to as biomimetics. Some of the famous examples of biomimicry that we see around – Velcro microscopic-photograph-velcro George de Mestral’s observed his dog was covered in burdock burrs during hunting. Mestral put it under his microscope and discovered a simple design of hooks that nimbly attached to fur and socks. Shinkansen Bullet Train _56332284_kingfisher464 Eiji Nakatsu, a bird-watching engineer took inspiration from the kingfisher, which creates barely a ripple when it darts into water in search of a meal. The train’s redesigned nose solved the problem that a normal train will cause a lot of noise at such speed. It also reduced power use and enabled faster speeds. bullet-train-600x375 Harvesting Desert Frog namib-desert-beetle The Namibian Beetle raises its back into the air as fog rolls into its desert habitat. Bumps on its shell catch water droplets. The entire shell is covered in a slick, Teflon-like wax and is channeled so that condensed water from morning fog is funneled into the beetle’s mouth. The design of this fog-collecting structure can be reproduced cheaply on a commercial scale and may find application in water-trapping tent. Mercedes-Benz Box Fish Car ocean-biomimicry-box-fish-car For their 2005 Bionic Car Concept, Mercedes-Benz looked to the boxfish: a fast tropical fish that’s angular yet streamlined, aerodynamic and highly efficient. Passive Cooling termitehararezimbabwe A high-rise in Zimbabwe was designed to mimic the way that the tower-building termites in Africa construct their mounds to maintain a constant temperature. The insects do this by constantly opening and closing vents throughout the mound to manage convection currents of air – cooler air is drawn in from open lower sections while hot air escapes through chimneys. The innovative building uses similar design and air circulation planning while consuming less than 10% of the energy used in similar sized conventional buildings! Gecko Tape ibUO4ILZTwv8 It is a material covered with nanoscopic hairs that mimic those found on the feet of gecko lizards. These millions of tiny, flexible hairs exert van der Waals forces that provide a powerful adhesive effect. How to use biomimicry models? The steps in which scientists apply biomimicry are as follows – 1.      Understand the problem – This involves getting to the heart of the matter and recognising the cause than the symptoms. 2.      Look at biological models – Keep the problem at the back of your mind, and look at nature and try and find places where a similar situation is faced. This starts with theoretical hypothesis and then validation. 3.      Replicate – Once you encounter a similar problem being solved, do a complete and detailed analysis of it. Then replicate the solution into non organic man made prototype and test it out. 4.      Scalability – The solution should be mass producible, affordable and efficient. Once the scalability is achieved, we can implement the solution. Conclusion Biomimicry is not something that only scientists can follow. It is not rocket science. Anyone can adopt it in any technical problems that we face as engineers. Infact there are also so many traits that we can even adopt in our day to day life, like working in a team can be learnt from ants. As rightly put by Janine Benyus – “When the forest and the cities are functionally undistinguishable, then we know we have reached sustainability.”

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