Many of the issues faced today have arisen as a consequence of human designs and engineering approaches distancing from the inspiration of nature. Biomimicry is changing the world of design as a practice that seeks to learn from and mimic the strategies of nature's systems.
When translating nature’s strategies into human designs, the Biomimicry Institute has emphasised that it must learn from and emulate the regenerative solutions living systems have for specific functional challenges. Some biomimicry designs are pretty obvious, for example, camouflage, swimsuits and biological detergents.
Others, however, are often hidden in plain sight yet remain pivotal for the functioning of our modem systems and determining their production efficiencies.
The flippers of humpback whales have inspired the blade design of modern wind turbines. By mimicking the fluid mechanics of the whale fin's physiology, the drag force restraining the acceleration of turbines has progressively lessened. This has ultimately allowed turbines to become much more efficient in energy generation as they are able to spin at increasingly higher rates. The ridges along the wind turbine's blade are compared with the whale's fin design below.
Further, by copying the shape of the Kingfisher's bill, Japan has been able to design its world-renowned bullet trains. The designer’s early hobby of bird watching inspired the bullet train's long narrow design, ultimately improving the transport’s efficiency through greater streamlining whilst effectually solving prior issues of noise pollution. The resemblance is clearly shown in the following image.
Lastly, the profound importance of biomimicry has led to the establishment of companies and start-ups designing their products and services in nature’s image.
One example is Biome Renewables, an engineering and design firm whose research and developments are playing a key role in how the world generates its power this century. Biome’s unique vision for facilitating the global energy transition towards renewables has led to inventions such as the PowerCone, a wind turbine retrofit inspired by the aerodynamics of falling maple seeds. The PowerCone will assist in increasing the annual energy production of wind turbine blades by minimising loss and improving efficiencies. Illustrations for the PowerCone's design are detailed subsequentluy.
It is without a doubt that biomimicry is a task that asks nature how it accomplished the different – and arguably more efficient – functions we humans need to carry out.
This is particularly pertinent as we confront numerous issues throughout this century.
Increasing temperatures under global warming may mean we have to ask the termites for inspiration on ventilation as they accomplish such a genius feat for their huge termite mounds.
Growing population sizes means asking schools of fish for inspiration in car design as the ever-narrowing supply of space demands translating their tightly packed nature into the roads.
Deteriorating ecosystem quality worldwide means we must ask such living systems for guidance on how to save them as for centuries – through glaciations, droughts, floods and decades of human extraction - they have proved that the only real model for saving them is themselves.
Apart from technical and logistical restraints, one of the main barriers to using biomimicry as the essential tool for our and 'more-than-human' survival on Earth is retaining humility to admit we are not in control and are dependent on nature.
For all the challenges we face, nature has a solution. And it is this solution we must try to emulate by following an ethos for understanding both how life itself works and how our modern values deeply interconnect with nature's biological strategies.
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