Friday, 12 March 2010

Biomimicry: What Could Nature Teach Us

Biomimicry is designing by taking inspiration from nature. Its solving design problems in an environmentally friendly way by looking at the way plants and animals have been designed to do so without even thinking about it. What could nature teach us?

Advances in this field are astonishing. They are designing cars that have anti bump technology based on the behavior abilities of fish. Self-cleaning surfaces mimicking the lotus’ self cleaning leaves. Heating and cooling homes copying the way termites construct their mounds. The ultimate irony lies in the simplicity of it all.

We think that our species is so much more advanced than others yet they are solving more problems in simpler ways whilst having no negative effect on their habitat. Maybe we aren’t so smart after all, maybe they have all had their turn at being “top dog” and now it’s our turn we are ruining everything they have created.

In our modern world our answer to stopping the spread of disease is to kill everything, good and bad with harmful chemicals that have not been tested properly for their long term harmful effects. We now know that these chemicals cause bacteria to evolve and resist treatment. Yet we are still using them. Nature has a more delicate resolution to this problem. Sharklet technologies have designed an innovative surface inspired and developed from the design of sharks scales. They noticed that barnacles and other parasites were rarely found on the bodies of sharks whilst they were extremely common on whales. After investigating the surface of their scales they have developed a surface that acts in a similar way. It creates an environment that is not suitable for bacteria to occupy this new surface is to be used in areas with a high risk of bacterial infection eg. hospitals, public toilets and medical utensils.

I find this type of designing fascinating and it’s reassuring to know that there are institutes dedicated to encouraging the creation of these kinds of products. The Biomimicry Institute was set up in 2005 by Janine Benyus who wrote the book “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature”. There are some more interesting links I have attached to this article about all the good work going on in biomimicry.

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