Biomimetics: Natural Problem Solving

Efficiency is about saving resources. These resources can include, time, money, human labor and raw materials. Being more efficient is something we all strive for in life. Often there are organic life forms that do what we want to achieve but have evolved millions of years to achieve this goal. Some of these things can make your mouth drop, such as plants having the ability to emit a chemical that summons insects. Often nature has the solution before we have a problem to begin with.

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The cushion plant’s tightly packed stems insulate it from the cold and wind. Image via AskNature.org.

Inspiration

Could you imagine beating your head against a tree 18-22 times per second? Woodpeckers do this every day and yet they never have head trauma or black out mid-flight. Shock absorbing systems have been engineered from the woodpecker’s skull. Engineers and architects are starting to realize that the solution does not lay within the mind, but within nature. Would we have any ambition to fly without nature? I doubt the idea would have come to man if there were not birds in the sky. Nature not only provides solutions but it inspires us as well.

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A Kingfisher compared to the design of a train. Image via Biomimicry.net.

Architecture

The Eiffel tower is a wonderful structure of steel and captures the spirit of the industrial revolution right? The Eiffel tower actually used biomimetic design inspired from the human body. Yes, it is a wonderful achievement of  engineering, however it would not be possible without nature. Our femur bone is porous like a sponge and has many holes which help absorb shock. The femur bone (Trabecular bone) goes through great strain during our lifetime and it is meant to last.  Yes, the Eiffel Tower is a wonderful achievement of engineering, however it would not be possible without nature. The Water Cube or national aquatic center in Bejing, China is very similar to a giant greenhouse. Wafer-thin bubbles trap air which is an excellent insulator. The air bubbles’ heat is even transferred to the water inside.

Technology

You might not think of it as technology now, but George De Mestral made a small change in the world thanks to an observation in nature. He was out hiking one day and came across a patch of burrs, when he came home, he took one of them and put it under a microscope only to discover thousands of tiny hooks.  He thought it would be a good idea to create a fastening device using this principle. Qualcomm has discovered that it can use properties found in butterflies to engineer better performing electronic displays.  Electronic displays are plagued with problems such as power consumption, brightness, portability, and scalability. Qualcomm’s new Marisol system is more effective than past electronic displays because of the amount of light it can reflect back making it ideal for outdoor use.

Feature Image: Biomimetic design inspired by a nasturtium leaf. Image via YellowBlueDesigns.com.

About The Author

Seth Rollings
My name is Seth, and I am a New Mexico Transplant from Georgia. I have a passion for all things science and technology. I love playing the guitar and record my songs as well. I'm currently attending Eastern New Mexico University at Roswell for Renewable Energy Technologies. Questions are always encouraged.