Biomimicry offers a broad view for innovation in a wide range of professions, from biomedicine to architecture, design, communications, city planning, engineering and economics. This is accomplished by observing, analysing and applying mimicry in one (and sometimes more) of its three main varieties. 

 

Biomimetics “consults” nature so as to emulate some of its best designs to solve human challenges in a sustainable way. This innovative field copies the forms, processes and systems found in nature to create solutions that are not only sustainable, but also establish the conditions conducive to the creation and support of life. 

Morphologies

By copying the morphology (or shape) of different living organisms, teams of scientists have created solutions such as these: 

Shinkansen Bullet Train

A high-speed train in Japan, called the Shinkansen Bullet Train, was designed to mimic the shape of the kingfisher’s head, whose sharp beak allows it to swiftly move from one environment (air) to another (water). This innovation has allowed engineers to reduce the train’s impact when entering a tunnel at high speeds, where air flow is usually more constricted.

Wind Turbines

A system of wind turbines better adapted to the conditions of the environment based on the shape of humpback whales’ pectoral fins, which can reduce the turbines’ resistance to the wind resulting in a larger output of electricity from the average input of movement generated by the wind, meaning that this inexhaustible resource is being taken advantage of more fully.

Antibacterial Materials

Sharklet's new material finds inspiration in a texture found on sharks’ skin, which is specially adapted to repel bacteria that usually attaches itself to the surface of slow-swimming animals’ skin. This finding has allowed scientist to replicate this feature in a new material, which is being used to cover the surfaces of spaces such as hospital rooms that are being occupied by people with immunodeficiencies.
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Processes

Various living organic processes, studied by professionals working in many different fields, have served as inspiration for products such as these:

Gathering water in desert environments

The Namib Desert beetle uses the bumps on its exoskeleton to condense the humidity in the air and produce its own water in the arid climate of the Namibian Desert, where water sources are scarce. This process does not currently have a real-life application, but it is being studied in order to find out how it may be applied to a variety of situations linked to water scarcity.

Thermal regulation in builings

A species of termites builds structures with natural ventilation properties which allows it to stabilise the temperature within the nest, despite the scorching climates of their natural environments in Africa, Australia and South America. These structures have served as inspiration for architectural constructions: a shopping centre has been built in Zimbabwe, the Eastgate Centre in Harare, using this process, which has allowed for a drastic reduction in energy use which would have been applied to cooling and regulating its temperature.

Mimicking changes in colour

Cephalopods can manipulate light radiation to mimic their environment and change colour. A new material is now being developed which copies this property, manipulating thermal radiation to isolate various kinds of objects, and which may be applied to architecture, computing, and even textiles.

Systems

Various different living organic processes, studied by professionals working in different fields, have helped inspire products such as these: 

Thermal regulation systems

The same species of termite transforms the waste it generates, which primarily takes the form of CO2 and is created during the day, to help natural ventilation taking place during the night within its structures. This kind of system is now being applied to new architectural models, known as passive architecture, which do away with active heating.

Cradle-to-cradle

A city in Denmark, Kalundborg, is using the principle of the system of symbiosis in order to reduce waste produced by human activity. It works on the basis that one activity’s residues can be turned into an energy source for other activities. In this way, the citizens and businesses of Kalundborg are seeking to close the cycle of human production, so that everything in use has a specific utility.