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Biomimetics - Learning from Nature

Updated on October 27, 2011

What Is Biomimetics?

Biomimetics is a new science intriguing many engineers, material, medical, and physical scientists across the globe. By definition, biomimetics is learning from nature's adaptations for use by humans in science and technology. One of the main subdivisions of Biomimetics deals with studying the mimicry and camouflage of animals, so that humans might be able to invent items that will mimic how certain animals hide themselves(one such use might be for better army camouflage)

How do spiders do it?
How do spiders do it?

Biomimetics - A More In-Depth Analysis

Biomimetics is hard to explain in one simple definition, but it becomes easier to understand with a lengthier meaning.

Biomimetics is the use of designs and traits from nature to solve real and potential problems in other branches of science, such as engineering and medicine. In practice, a scientist might study one specific unique quality of an animal, like a spiders ability to build super-strong webs or how a gecko can grip onto a sheer wall. This step alone takes years of intense work, as the scientist must figure out the fundamental building blocks of how an adaptation is produced. Once a scientist determines how an animal produces an adaptation, they can begin to duplicate the result for the good of humanity. In the two examples above possible biometic outcomes could be cables that are thinner yet stronger than others, or non-slip tires that literally can grip onto the road.

The Thorny Devil
The Thorny Devil

Andrew Parker - An Evolutionary Biologist

Andrew Parker the foremost biometic scientist, he has been studying and devloping how to use natural adaptations for human use.

Andrew Parker's resume is unbeatable in biometics, he has studied iridescence in butterfly eyes and antireflective particle coatings in moth eyes to help develop L.E.D. screens in cellular phones, and has helped to copy the ability of ants to lift objects more than 100x their own weight in a top secret project for the army. Parker's latest project has been to study the thorny-devil's,a lizard in Australia, ability to collect water from the ground using its foot, then transport the water directly to its mouth to keep hydrated. He hopes that using the same technique, he could create a device that will collect lifesaving water in the driest deserts in the world for native peoples.

Raptor in Flight
Raptor in Flight

Projects Around The World

Scientists all over the world are working on producing biometically inspired devices, for a variety of uses

Parker's work is just one small project in a rapidle growing biomimetic movement worldwide. Scientists around the world are turning to adaptations produced over time by animals, to solve problems that humans are beginning to face. One such project is to study the bumps on a humpback whale's tail fluke with the hope of producing more aerodynamic airplane wings to reduce fuel consumption. In a similar project, raptor feathers, from birds like eagles and hawks, are being bit-by-bit virtually mapped out to decrease air resistance of planes for the same purposes as the whale study. Termites have even been studied for how they regular air flow, temperature, and humidity inside of their mounds in order to create more comfortable buildings for humans.

Biometically Inspired Bug-Catcher - A 3D graphical representation of Bio-Me, a bug-catching synthetic plant

Bio-Me is an autonomous synthetic plant that is capable of producing energy from its prey, insects. The "digesting" concept is based on GastroBots, a type of highly intelligent robot that can power itself by digesting real food. The robots have the ability to turn organic compounds directly into energy with little refuse through a complex process using MFC's. The biometically inspired plant is based off the carnivorous Venus-Fly Trap plant.

Robo-Fly Prototype
Robo-Fly Prototype

A Robotic Fly?

Is producing a robot as small as a fly useful? How can it be done in such a small scale, but then still be useful for humanity.

Ronald Fearing, an electrical engeneering professor, has been attempting to create a miniature robot fly that is easy to maneuver for use in surveillance(there might really be "flies on the wall" someday!) or search and rescue missions. During this project it has been established that just copying the fly will not work, they need to isolate the factors that give the fly the ability to....well....fly! Copying the structural designs of a fly is more of a engeneering based project, whereas many other projects require a deeper understanding of how a gene is produced. Even though a Robo-Fly seems easier to invent, it will take at least a few more years before it can be used in soceity.

Science and Technology Logo
Science and Technology Logo

Problems The Biometical Movement Is Facing

Even though the scientists involved in the study of biomimetics, the way is not pathed and is stilled littered with obstacles.

As of now, there has only been one mass-produced bio-inspired invention.....velcro. Velcro was invented in 1948 by a Swiss chemist, George de Mestral. Mestral copied the way burs hung to his dog's fur, and it has been massed produced ever since. Scientists blame three major reasons that project success is rare. First, they blame project funders who expect returns on their investments in the short-term and want profitable products within a few years which is almost impossible for a scientist to do. Second, they blame educational and industrial disciplines. Finally, the main reason that success is rare is that the technology to study the complexity of nature simply does not exist yet.

Regardless of these factors, the margin between what we can produce and what nature beats us at is becoming smaller every year. As our technology becomes more powerful such as microscopes, super-computers, and microtomography, scientists unlock new secrets in the natural world helping us understand the building blocks of life.

Books on Biomimetics - If you enjoyed my brief description of this innovative science and want to learn more, try buying and reading these books.

Please, Leave A Comment - Whether its something you learned, or found interesting, or think I need to add I would Love to Hear from You!

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    • theSEOmama profile image

      theSEOmama 5 years ago

      Very interesting topic! I just read a really cool article about "soft robots" that are inspired by starfish and squid....there are video's within the article of the robot in action....very strange but very cool to watch!

      (http://www.webpronews.com/soft-robot-creepily-craw...

    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 5 years ago

      Beautiful and informative lens. Angel Blessed!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have to admit, this is the first time I've heard of this. It is very interesting.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      I have a Biology degree and have always been fascinated by nature. You lens has spurred me on to learning more. Good luck in the tier 1 challenge!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      I have a Biology degree and have always been fascinated by nature. You lens has spurred me on to learning more. Good luck in the tier 1 challenge!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Fascinating and nicely done!

    • mannasugar profile image

      mannasugar 6 years ago

      Very interesting///

    • javr profile image

      javr 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Fascinating! This lens has been blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 6 years ago

      Nice Lens.

    • Patduffy profile image
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      Patduffy 6 years ago

      @KDimmick: Thank you very very much, You truly are an angel to me

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Cool lens!

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 6 years ago

      I love stuff like this. Nicely presented too.

    • profile image

      KDimmick 6 years ago

      Fascinating lens! Blessed by an angel :)

    • aerome profile image

      aerome 6 years ago

      Learned a lot from this. Quite an interesting field of study.