Biomimicry design, Learning from Nature new learning for UX Designer, VR & AR Designer
“The best ideas might not be ours.”
Janine Benuys stars in DiCaprio-produced biomimicry film
What is Biomimicry?
Biomimicry, the practice of looking deeply into nature for solutions to engineering, design and other challenges, has inspired a film about it’s ground-breaking vision for creating a long-term, sustainable world. This film covers how mimicking nature solves some of our most pressing problems, from reducing carbon emissions to saving water. The film, titled “Biomimicry” features Janine Benyus, is brought to you by Leonardo DiCaprio, Executive Producers Oliver Stanton, directed by Leila Conners, produced by Mathew Schmid and Bryony Schwan, created by Tree Media with Executive Producers Roee Sharon Peled and George DiCaprio. For more information on Biomimicry:
14 Smart Inventions Inspired by Nature: Biomimicry
Nature as R&D Lab
What’s missing is a systematic way of capturing nature’s creativity, says Janine Benyus, a biologist, “innovation consultant” and author. Engineering practices are fractured, Benyus says. Experts in biomimetics study materials; bionics engineers work on prostheses and mechanics. “There was no umbrella term that encompassed everything from agriculture to business,” she says. And thus no way to systematize innovation. So she launched what she calls a new discipline, biomimicry, the title of her 1997 book. Benyus has worked since then to popularize and organize ad hoc biomimetic practices that are probably as old as human invention.
With assistance from Tom Randall.
Photographer: Andreas Reh
After a hunting trip in the Alps in 1941, Swiss engineer George de Mestral’s dog was covered in burdock burrs. Mestral put one under his microscope and discovered a simple design of hooks that nimbly attached to fur and socks. After years of experimentation, he invented Velcro — and earned U.S. Patent 2,717,437 in September 1955. Benyus said it is probably the best-known and most commercially successful instance of biomimicry.
Correction: This slide originally stated that the patent was earned in October 1952; that is when it was filed.
Photographers: Scott Camazine; Custom Medical Stock Photo
A Paper House for Wasps
Biomimicry is “innovation inspired by nature,” according to Benyus. Biomimics — engineers, architects and other innovators — are “nature’s apprentices,” she said in a 2009 TED talk. They are driven by the question, “what if every time I started to invent something I asked, ‘How would nature solve this?’” Benyus sees examples of human inventions paralleling nature virtually everywhere. The tissue that wasps make their nests from resemble “fine Italian endpapers.” She told the TED audience of a time she let one grow on her property: “It was so beautifully done. It was so architectural. It was so precise.” Benyus’s consultancy, Biomimicry 3.8, helps companies by searching scientific literature and assembling what she calls “amoeba through zebra” reports that, distilled, offer relevant natural design principles that engineers can work with. The company, a public benefit corporation, is beginning to expand its services beyond design research into engineering and intellectual-property development for corporate clients.
Photographers: Steve Irvine; Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis
Shinkansen Bullet Train
High-speed trains can literally cause headaches. That’s why Japan limits their acceptable noise-pollution level, which can be particularly high when the trains emerge from tunnels. As they drive through, air pressure builds up in waves and, when the nose emerges, can produce a shotgun-like thunderclap heard for a quarter mile. Eiji Nakatsu, a bird-watching engineer at the Japanese rail company JR-West, in the 1990s took inspiration from the kingfisher, a fish-eating fowl that creates barely a ripple when it darts into water in search of a meal. The train’s redesigned nose — a 50-foot-long steel kingfisher beak — didn’t just solve the noise problem; it reduced power use and enabled faster speeds.
Photographers: Hiromi Okano/Corbis; West Japan Railway Co. Via Bloomberg
Boats, Hospitals Don Sharkskin
For a beast that moves slowly through the ocean, sharks stay remarkably clear of algae and other fellow travelers. That’s largely a function of their unique skin, covered with microscopic patterns called dentricles, which help reduce drag and keep microorganisms from hitching free rides. NASA scientists copied the patterns to create drag-reducing patterns they call riblets. They worked with 3M to adapt the riblets to a thin film used to coat the hull of the sailboat Stars & Stripes, which won an Olympic medal and the America’s Cup before the riblets were banned in 1987. The America’s Cup race has since reinstated them. Other applications can help planes, boats and windmills reduce drag and conserve energy. Sharklet Technologies, based in Aurora, Colorado, makes surface materials for hospitals, restaurant kitchens, public bathrooms and elsewhere that repel bacteria. Dentricle-like nano-scale structures on the surface prevent the bugs from taking root.
Photographers: Edward Kinsman/Photo Researchers; Nick Wilson/Getty Images
Harvesting Desert Fog
The Namibian Beetle raises its back into the air as fog rolls into its desert habitat. Bumps on its shell catch water droplets, which then run down chutes toward its mouth. “The design of this fog-collecting structure can be reproduced cheaply on a commercial scale and may find application in water-trapping tent and building coverings,” wrote the authors of a 2001 paper that revealed how the water collection works. Inventors and designers have taken note. A “Dew Bank Bottle,” designed by Pak Kitae of the Seoul National University of Technology, imitates the beetle’s water-collection system. Morning dew condenses on it and conveys it to a bottle, which has a drinking spout.
Photographers: Michael and Patricia Fogden/Minden Pictures; Coutesy Pak Kitae
Nature’s Water Filter
The 2003 Nobel Prize was awarded in part to Peter Agre of Johns Hopkins for his discovery, around 1990, of a membrane protein that allows water to pass through cell walls. The discovery of aquaporin solved a longtime problem in biochemistry. The Danish company Aquaporin has developed a new approach to seawater desalination that eschews the polymer-layering of traditional industrial films for the elegant complexity — and energy efficiency — of biological membranes.
Photographer: Andew Geiger; Rendering by Aquaporin A/S
Experimental Fish Car
“Reinventing the wheel” is imprecise, even as a metaphor, in the biomimetic context. That’s because nature doesn’t really do wheels; there’s nothing for engineers to reinvent. The rough-and-humble tumbleweed is one of the few works of evolution that roll to get where they’re going. Mercedes-Benz instead found inspiration for a car body (less its wheels) in the boxfish, a tropical species shaped sort of like, well, a two-door compact. The fish’s body turned out to be aerodynamically superb, and the resulting concept car has one of the most efficient shapes for a car of its size.
Photograpger: Secret Sea Visions/Peter Arnold; Rendering: Mercedes-Benz/Daimler AG