The most fascinating inventions and discoveries in the world have been inspired by Mother Nature.
“Bio” means life, “Mimicry” means imitation. The science of copying nature – biomimetics, is a billion-dollar industry. Innovations inspired by the planet are sustainable and revolutionary!
Bullet Train nose is Kingfisher beak. Eiji Nakatsu, an engineer and bird enthusiast felt the train needed to slice through air like a Kingfisher diver bird slicing through air and water. A Kingfishers’ streamlined pointed beak helps it cut through air, barely make a ripple when they plunge into water. He altered the bullet train’s rounded nose to mimic a kingfisher’s bill. Now the bullet train runs at 320 kmph (200 mph) with reduced energy consumption and air resistance.
Cod Antifreeze Proteins
Scientists found that Arctic Cod don’t freeze in icy arctic waters because they have antifreeze glycoproteins that circulate in their blood keeping it in liquid form. Researchers have created a new polymer to preserve blood in blood banks called Polyvinyl alcohol that acts as an antifreeze and prevents freezing.
Giraffe Compression Socks
Giraffes are the tallest animals on Earth, their blood has a lot of area to circulate. They have unique skin that’s extremely tough, fibrous, and non-elastic, which creates a rigid sleeve that optimizes blood flow. Scientists have used this ‘skin’ to create a compression system for humans suffering from edema.
Painless Mosquito Injections
Researchers at Kansai University in Japan have designed a minimally invasive, three-pronged needle which resembles a mosquito’s needle-like mouth called proboscis. The needle also vibrates slightly at 15 hz, mimicking a real mosquito bite. It eases the needle into the skin flawlessly, making the injection virtually painless.
Velcro from Burr
In 1941, Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral was walking in the Alps when he noticed a burr had naturally caught onto his dog’s coat. Velcro is a synthetic version of the tiny seed with hundreds of tiny hooks. Velcro is from the French words velours, meaning velvet, and crochet, meaning hook.
Planes are inspired by Birds
Wright Brothers were inspired by the way birds soared into the wind & the air flowing over the curved surface of their wings created lift. They used this technique of birds changing the shape of their wings to turn & manoeuvre to obtain roll control & warping by changing the shape of a portion of the wing.
Even now, scientist study birds and insects for new aerodynamic research – airbus engineers are studying owls to understand the secret of silent flight, bees and butterflies have inspired “bionic bones” to make light-weight aircrafts.
Smartphone Screen is Butterfly Wings
Scientists discovered that shimmering colours were created by layers of overlapping crystalline structures that bent light, reflecting off them. Screen display Mirasol is inspired by the iridescence of a butterfly’s wing. This new technology works by reflecting light instead of transmitting light like LCD screens; you can read even in bright sunlight just as you can see designs on a butterfly’s wings. Full-colour electronic book readers like Amazon Kindle Fire HDX have also used this science.
Sharkskin is Anti-Bacterial
Unlike other marine creatures sharks don’t collect barnacles, algae, slime and bacteria on their skin. Sharkskin is like a carpet of tiny, sharp V-shape scales called dermal denticles that keeps it germ-free and resistant to bacterial infections.
Despite stringent sterilization procedures doctors and nurses inadvertently spread bacteria and viruses from one patient to another. 100,000 Americans die each year from infections they pick up in hospitals.
Scientists have created a sharkskin inspired coating that repels bacteria and a plastic wrap that can be used on hospital surfaces to keep them germ free. Urinary catheters are being developed with sharkskin texture.
U.S. Navy uses a coating based on this skin pattern to inhibit marine growth on ships. It optimizes vessel performance and reduces fuel costs. Marine growth on a ship adds weight and can increase drag by as much as 20% and barnacles over 60%, increasing fuel consumption and green house gas emissions.
Cats Eye Reflectors
In 1930s, Yorkshire repairman Percy Shaw was on his motorcycle on a foggy night. Unable to see the road well, he almost rode off the edge of a twisting road, but the reflection of his headlight in a cat’s eyes saved his life. He developed the “Catseye” reflective road-stud. His invention was widely used in UK when there was a blackout during World War II. Shaw’s invention has since been modified and used on roads, tapes, clothes, bicycles, shoes, dog collars and other reflective objects.
Sonar from Dolphins & Whales
Dolphins and whales use sonar to find differences between even the smallest objects from a distance of 15 meters. They created a “sound landscape” in their mind based on constant feedback, which helps them build an environment map. They also use their sonar to find food and friends.
Military sonar is similar to a whale, it even works on the same frequencies, from 100 Hz to 500 Hz. Navy set their sonar to 235 dB, and whales typically emit sonar signals in the range of 170 dB.
Fireflies, sea creatures and even some types of plants glow in the dark to attract prey, partners, warning of predators and communication with other members of the species.
Bioluminescence creates a simple chemical reaction with the enzyme luciferin and a few other cofactors specific to certain creatures and plants. Some companies are trying to create street lights and medical devices by using luciferin to artificially develop bioluminescence
Reptiles create Renewable Energy
Scientists have found that embryos of spotted salamanders contain algae that live inside the young salamanders before they hatch. Algae survive by consuming wastes produced by the embryos of young salamanders. In return, algae produce energy and food for developing baby lizards. This is a perfect example of renewable energy.
Owls must be completely silent, because rodents on which they prey have incredibly sensitive hearing. Tiny division and fibers separate air flow from the wings, this prevents sounds caused by air resistance, enabling them to flap their wings in silence. Feathers of a barn owl are so soft and small that they can hunt silently even in wet weather when they are water-soaked. The combination of insulating layers of absorbent materials creates an atmosphere in which virtually no sound is heard.
Starfish are Cloning Experts
A marine star can asexually reproduce and lives longer and healthier than starfish which reproduce sexually. If the starfish tear off their limbs or even split in two, the creature will simply regrow a limb and regenerate. Some species are even able to produce a new body part of severed limbs.
GPS is from Birds
Bird migration is a mystery for scientists. There are many possible explanations as to how birds know where to fly — the position of the Sun, stars or Earth’s magnetic field. But none of them explains exactly how birds manage to successfully reach remote destinations, sometimes in the harshest of conditions. They have some sort of GPS or inner compass which is built into their small bird-brain.
Woodpecker Shock Absorber
Woodpeckers drill trees up to 12,000 times a day, they have shock-absorbing skulls and their beaks have an area filled with a spongy cerebrospinal fluid that inhibits vibration and concussions. Flexible cartilage between their beaks and skulls acts as a shock absorber, while bone structure helps to protect their brains against the pounding.
Inspired by a woodpeckers anatomy, designers have created a super-strong helmet that can withstand three times the shock of a traditional polystyrene helmet.
Scientists are using this unique design to create shock resistant flight recorders or black boxes on an airplane.
Robotic Arm Elephant’s trunk
Elephant trunks are as nimble as human hands, with over 40,000 muscles, they can pick apples from a branch, a banana from your hand or rip an entire tree out of the ground.
German company Festo has developed a robotic arm – Bionic Handling Assistant. Made of polyamide, inspired by the design of an elephants trunk this ‘Assistant’ can lift heavy weights as well as perform delicate actions like picking up an apple.
X-rays vision Lobsters
Lobsters see using reflection. Their eyes are covered in squares, similar to flat mirrors that reflect light at precise angles to form pictures from any direction.
Lobster Eye X-ray Imaging Device, Lexid is a “flashlight” that can see through steel walls 3”(8cm) thick. Department of Homeland Security has invested $1 million in LEXID, to detect contraband, stolen or illegal goods.
Despite doctors saying that x-rays are safe, an x-ray in a clinic or airport is a torrent of radiation dispensed by a huge device.
Lobsters living in murky water at the bottom of the ocean have “X-ray vision” better than any of our machines.
The human eye views refracted images that are interpreted by our brain but lobsters see direct reflections that are focused on a single point, gathered together to form an image.
Scientists are trying to make a smaller X-ray machines with less radiation by using this technique.
Sea Sponge inspired Solar Panels & Batteries
The orange puffball sponge has no appendages, organs, digestive system or circulatory system. It sits on the ocean floor filtering water. The “skeleton” of the puffball sponge is a series of calcium and silicon lattices, very similar to the material we use to make solar panels, microchips, and batteries
Camel Toe Tyre
Bridgestone is developing a special type of tire for lunar Rover that mimics the two-lobed toes of camels. The tire has two lobes of braided steel and is designed to be able to easily trek over hills of fine-grained, abrasive lunar dust.
Researching for this blog has been an eye opener for me. I have a deep connection with Mother Nature and I always knew there were several inventions inspired by animals but I wasn’t aware there were so many; and several more in trial phase. I am now inspired to pursue some ideas of my own. This article will be continued in 2021……