Biomimicry: Cutting Edge Design based on Nature

Biomimicry has been around a while. You might say we’ve been at it since the beginning of our consciousness.

Following animals to water sources, for instance. Shamans wore furs, skulls, bones of the animals whose powers they wished to harness. Once we tasted lightning-roasted nuts and fruits from the struck tree, we could never go back to just eating raw almonds or apples (or walnuts, or hazelnuts, or apricots, take your pick) so we had to figure out how to make that fire on our own.

Consider too – Yoga’s Downward Dog position- and others like Cat, Cow, Cobra, all based on observations of the movements of those creatures in aid to our own well-being.

 

Downward Dog

More recently, think George de Mestral and his observation of burrs sticking to his dog’s fur inspring the invention of Velcro, for instance –

Burdock burrs
Velcro close up

Biomimicry continues to be a cutting edge scientific and technological endeavor to solve some of our most complex issues. Witness Japan solving its sonic boom noise pollution from its high speed trains leaving the tunnels, by mimicking the beak of the Kingfisher –

Popular Science Magazine offered a quick glimpse in its July 2011 issue of its archive of biomimicry articles and images going back to 1892, including inspiration for helicopters from Sycamore tree seeds and caterpillars as WWI tanks, proving that although the term biomimicry wasn’t coined until 1982, the idea of harnessing our observations of the natural world to the engines of our desires has been around a while. Check it out here.

Institutes have blossomed to support the new interdisciplinary holistic approach to designing just about everything by consulting nature. Biomimicry 3.8, is an organization whose stated mission is to “train, equip, and connect scientists, engineers, architects, educators, and other innovators to sustainably emulate nature’s 3.8 billion years of brilliant designs and strategies.”  They are fostering a next generation of designers with their annual Biomimicry Student Design Challenge. This year’s challenge to university student teams is to “use biomimicry to design solutions that improve water access and management.”

This is but a tiny snippet of the recent developments in biomimicry across multiple disciplines- computer science, architecture, engineering, fashion design – that hopefully prove to be fruitful to us humans and lighten our load on the planet at the same time.

 

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