Biomimicry is the process of sustainably creating policies, products, and services for the betterment of living beings and the ecosystem. The word biomimicry is made up of two separate words, i.e., bio and mimicry. Bio means living things, and mimicry implies imitation. This implies that biomimicry is the process of imitating life. The process of biomimicry can be used as a great combat technique to deal with the problems created due to urbanization and modernization.
Examples of Biomimicry
There are a variety of daily life applications present around us that make use of the concept of biomimicry. Some of them are listed below:
1. Modern Turbine Blades
Modern turbine blades form a prominent example of biomimicry in real life. The concept of modern turbine blades is inspired by the structure of the flippers of humpback whales. The flippers of humpback whales are about 5 metres long and have bumps or irregularities called pectorals that help them accelerate at a significantly high rate. The modern turbine blades typically contain three-dimensional bumps on their edges. This helps provide a separate passage for the smooth flow of fluids such as air or water, thereby improving the overall efficiency of the device. It also helps reduce noise pollution by a considerable amount. Such turbine blades primarily find their application in ventilation fans, motors, irrigation pumps, wind power plants, and various other similar systems. Research shows that replacing the traditional fins with biomimetic fins reduces the amount of drag force to one-third of the original value and improves the overall lift by 8%. A wind power plant equipped with windmills that have modern turbine blades moving at a speed of 10 miles per hour tends to generate the same amount of power that is produced by the windmills that have traditional turbine blades moving at a speed of 17 miles per hour.
2. Bullet Trains
Bullet trains are a classic example of biomimicry in real life. Earlier, when a bullet train used to pass through a tunnel, a significant amount of change in pressure was observed as the moving train pushed the air present in the tunnel towards the curved structure of the tunnel. The magnitude of air pressure inside the tunnel kept on increasing gradually and was released all of a sudden when the train emerged out of the tunnel. This led to the development of a high-intensity sound, which was known as a sonic boom or a tunnel boom. This problem used to cause a major inconvenience to the people residing near the tunnels. In the year 1994, Er. Eiji Nakatsu found the solution for the sonic boom produced by bullet trains. It is said that Er. Eiji Nakatsu got the inspiration for the solution to the sonic boom problem due to his bird watching hobby. He observed that a kingfisher dips its beak into the water and seeks for his prey without making a huge splash of water. On the basis of this observation, Er. Eiji Nakatsu designed a 50 ft long narrow structure for the train that resembled the shape of the beak of a kingfisher. Along with the solution to the sonic boom problem, this modification in the structure of the train also helped improve the overall efficiency by 15%.
The needles attached to the tip of a medical syringe tend to form a prominent example of the concept of biomimicry in real life. The structure of needles is typically inspired by mosquitos. A mosquito tends to implement various critical tactics to easily suck the blood out of our veins including the use of a numbing agent, i.e., usually saliva, the smooth insertion of the finely serrated proboscis into the veins, the controlled production of vibrations while piercing through the skin, etc. Researchers usually try to include all such criteria into their products to make the process of injecting fluids into the veins, the procedure of piercing, surgery, etc. comparatively more efficient and easy.
4. Swim Suits
The design of most of the swimsuits made for professional swimmers is based on the structure of the skins of sharks. The skin of sharks is thoroughly covered with dermal denticles. When subjected to motion, these dermal denticles tend to create a low-pressure zone, thereby forming one or multiple numbers of vortexes. The leading edge of the vortex helps reduce the magnitude of drag force and pulls the shark in a forwarding direction. This helps the shark move at a faster rate with a minimum amount of applied force. A similar concept is used in the manufacturing of swimsuits to improve the swim speed of the swimmers and reduce the amount of muscular force applied by the swimmer externally; however, such swimsuits are banned in international level competitions such as Olympic games.
Velcro was first invented by George de Mestral in 1941. His discovery is yet another example of biomimicry in real life as it is clearly inspired by the burrs present in nature. One day, the engineer and entrepreneur, George de Mestral noticed burrs on himself and on his dog. It was at that particular moment when he examined the structure of a burr under the microscope. As a result of his observation, it was found that there were small hooks present on the surface of burrs that get stuck into the loops of the clothes or fur of the animals. This leads to the development of a temporary yet strong force that binds the two objects together. This observation inspired the discovery of velcro. The word velcro is made up of two french words ‘velours’ and ‘crochet’. The word ‘velours’ mean loop, while the word ‘crochet’ means hook. Since then velcro is being used for a variety of applications such as to hold wires in place, to fix objects temporarily on a surface, to hold clothes in place, to tighten the shoes, etc.
The concept or the idea of camouflage is typically inspired by octopuses or other cephalopods existing in nature. Cephalopods such as squids can change their skin colour with the help of a network of skin cells that can detect the elements present surroundings and are able to transform their shape, structure, and other physical properties accordingly. Usually, such animals are also capable of exhibiting bioluminescence into the surroundings. Most of the cephalopods make use of their ability to change colour as a self-defence mechanism to hide from their predators. A number of camouflage suits designed for military applications are inspired by the cephalopods. Such suits typically make use of a number of actuators, sensors, and reflectors. The sensors detect the change in the received input signals and transmit the signal to the actuator device. The actuator device then helps adjust the parameters as per the requirement. The output finally gets reflected on the surface of the reflectors.
7. Air Crafts
Aircraft engineering and aerodynamics are one of classic examples of biomimicry in real life. Aerodynamics is the study of the forces and motion of objects that tend to travel through the air. Aerodynamics is generally applied while designing aircraft or the objects that travel through the air such as commercial aeroplanes, fighter planes, rockets, drones, etc. The aerodynamics and the flight of the objects through the air can be improved significantly by referring to the structure of the birds and the mechanism of takeoff and landing followed by them. The current design of almost all of the air crafts is highly inspired by the body structure of birds. For instance, if you observe the wings of an aeroplane, you can easily notice that they are constructed in a shape that is quite similar to the shape of the wings of a bird. Also, there exists a fine similarly in the take-off or landing technique employed by birds and the takeoff and landing of an aeroplane.
8. Self Filling Water Bottles
The concept and working of self-filling water bottles are typically inspired by the Namib desert beetle. The Namib desert beetle is capable of harvesting water present in the air in vapour form. The skin of such beetles contains various hydrophilic bump that mainly helps condense the water vapours present in the air. The condensed water droplets then get stored and get rolled towards their mouth. This characteristic behaviour of a Namib desert beetle can be used to solve the problem of water shortage by a significant amount. Such applications are yet another example of biomimicry in real life.
9. Air Conditioning
The air conditioning and circulation systems of various large buildings are generally inspired by the termite mound present in nature. If you observe closely, the surface of a termite mound contains tiny holes through which the air passes in and out with ease. To use this particular nature’s method of cooling the environment in real life, the bricks of the building are designed in such a way that they have a relatively high thermal mass. The high value of thermal mass helps absorb the excessive amount of heat that gets trapped inside the premises. Also, the surface of the building contains tiny prickles that help reduce the heat gain during the day and the heat loss during the night. In addition to this, fans are embedded into the building structure that helps circulate the air throughout the building.
10. Shock Absorbers
The structure of the shock absorbers typically used in various applications such as automobiles, mechanical devices, generators, etc. obtains inspiration from the woodpeckers. A woodpecker tends to strike its beak on the surface of a tree about twenty-two times in a second to drill a hole into the trunk. The structure of the beak is both hard and elastic in nature and is supported by a long and narrow spring-like tongue. Also, a spongy bone is present in the skull of the woodpecker that helps suppress the vibration created due to the repetitive motion of the beak. Such properties can be easily incorporated into the structure of shock absorbers to increase efficiency and decrease noise.