In the last 10 years, a whole new field of biomimicry has emerged, that seeks to actively study nature and how it works in order to solve problems facing humanity.
For millions of years the plants, animals, microbes and insects on Earth have been using trial and error to improve their chances of survival. Through biomimicry, the techniques they use to grow, heal, defend and reproduce are leading to new products, technologies and engineering solutions.
The science of biomimicry became more widely known due to the 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Janine Benyus. She defined the term as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems.” This nearly always results in a more sustainable solution than currently exists.
Benyus is President of the The Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes the transfer of ideas, designs, and strategies from biology to sustainable human systems design.
A recent article in BusinessPundit.com explores Biomimicry and describes 10 great scientific advances due to the discovery of “new and interesting ways to steal Nature’s intellectual property.
- Bullet-proof skin. By integrating spider-silk into lab-grown skin, scientists have successfully created a material capable of stopping a speeding bullet.
- Pharmaceuticals discovered by chimps. The trees that sick chimps eat from to heal are harmful to many parasites that are harmful to humans.
- Termite-inspired skyscrapers. The eight-foot tall African termite towers reveal ways architects can keep tall buildings naturally cool even in hot climates.
- Solar cells based on leaves. By copying how leaves convert sunlight into plant energy, scientists have develop self-sealing gel bags containing some chlorophyll to generate electric currents.
- Self-cleaning surfaces. While they live outdoors, leaves need to stay clean to maximize energy conversion. Their surfaces are full of ridges that don’t give dirt a surface to cling to. So humans created self-cleaning paint and are working on self-cleaning glass.
- Soaking up carbon dioxide in sea shells. By studying mollusks, scientists discovered a way to convert harmful CO2 into solid carbonates, which can be resold as building material to generate a revenue stream.
- Harnessing the organizational talents of bees. Swarm intelligence is a concept based on how tens of thousands of bees can complete all the tasks of a large hive without anyone being in command. Immediate applications include power grid management that minimizes human input.
- Cellular functions inspire water filters. Membranes based on the structure of proteins in our cell membranes are proving highly effective and could be used for desalination.
- Collecting moisture in the desert. The Namib desert beetle’s exoskeleton collects moisture from dry desert air and directs to the beetle’s mouth. Research to mimic these actions for desert water collection is underway.
- Disinfectant based on shark skin. Actually, it’s the diamond-shaped, studded surface of the skin that makes it resistant to parasites as well as bacterial and fungal infections. Scientists are developing an adhesive film to use in schools and hospitals where germs proliferate.
Richard Kujawski is Managing Editor for LivingGreenMag, an online publication that informs and educates readers on a range of environmental and lifestyle issues, and highlights various non-profit causes. Visit www.LivingGreenMag.com.
Editor: Anne Clendening