Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolution in 1859, though most of us believe the process of evolution to be millions of years older than antiquity. Natural selection has been carefully refining living organisms to ensure that the ones which still live today have intricately adapted to suit their surrounding environments.
Now you may be wondering why on earth I am telling you this. Well wouldn’t it be great to implement the structures that Mother Nature has perfected over millions of years for the benefit of the human race? That’s essentially what biomimicry is all about. Mimicking biology (or nature). Other terms that are synonymous with biomimicry include bio-inspiration, biomimetics and biognosis. Some people prefer to use the term bio-inspiration as we should look to take inspiration from biological systems rather than copy them outright. After all we would never be able to make exact copies because it is near impossible to reproduce precisely the same materials and systems that we see in nature.
It may come as a surprise how long we humans have actually been looking to nature to help us solve our problems. For example for centuries people have been trying to soar like birds; only relatively recently have we achieved any success in the field of aeronautics which came about from trying to imitate the flight of birds.
A very popular and widespread product of biomimicry (although the science of biomimicry didn’t even exist at the time of discovery) is Velcro. Velcro is used for clothes fastenings but the idea actually stemmed from the annoying burrs that get caught on to trousers and animal fur very persistently. Velcro consists of one side of plastics hooks which fasten onto an entanglement of loose fibers. This originated from when George de Mestral was walking his dog in Switzerland and caught on to the concept of a clothes fastener that mimicked the relentless sticking of the burrs. Although the process of creating lots of hooks very close to each other and small in size took a while to become economically viable it was well worth the wait of eight years. Often we find it takes several years to go from concept to a fully functioning design that is also profitable but once that stage is reached everyone can benefit.
In essence biomimicry is, “the transfer of ideas from biology to technology”, as described by Otto Schmitt. Biomimetics is an excellent way to invent or create new products because of the innate advantages found in natural structures. These include sustainability; performing well in their task; saving energy and material costs and almost eliminating waste.