gulls in flight at delhi

It is often said that we invent nothing, only discover things. Nature has inspired technology through the ages. Technological innovation is rich with biomimicry: imitating systems, elements or models found in nature to solve complex human problems.

Solar panels were designed looking at leaves, microphones are like artificial ear-drums and thermal clothing feels like artificial polar bear fur. Here are a few interesting examples of biomimicry:

1. Fly like a bird

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first persons to understand the mechanics of bird flight, which inspired him to draw over 500 sketches of machines that could help humans to fly like birds. Airplane wings have been crafted based on the laws of fluid dynamics that birds follow. Even now, scientist turn to birds and insects for new aerodynamic research – airbus engineers are studying owls to understand the secret of silent flight, and bees and butterflies have inspired the creation of “bionic bones” to make light-weight aircrafts.

2. Getting hooked on

Photo by: Dan Century/Flickr

The idea behind Velcro came to its inventor when he was walking his dog in the Alps. He noticed that burrs(seeds)would often get stuck to his clothes and the dog’s fur. When he placed the burrs under a microscope, he noticed tiny hooks at the end of the spines. This inspired him to develop the twin surfaces of Velcro, deriving from the French words velours, meaning velvet, and crochet, meaning hook.This is probably the most ubiquitous example of biomimicry.

3. Clean as sharkskin

Photo by: Allie Caulfield/Flickr

The skin of the mighty shark is made up of a matrix of tiny, sharp tooth-like structures that keeps it germ-free and resistant to infections. Barnacles, algae, bacteria and other such creatures cannot hold on to sharkskin and get washed away easy. This has worked for the sharks for 400 million years and has now inspired scientists to come up with a similar pattern for adhesive films that can be used in hospitals and public restrooms to fight bacterial pathogens.

4.  Chilled-out termite homes

Photo by: Brewbooks-Flickr

Architects and engineers in Zimbabwe have designed high-rise buildings that stay cool without any air-conditioning.  The climate-control system of these buildings has been inspired from termite moulds that have constant humidity and temperature inside, regardless of the temperate changes outside. This model is simply based on strategic air-exchange and you can imagine the amount of power that can be saved if all offices buildings are designed after them.

5. Butterfly e-books

Photo by: TexasEagle-Flickr

Researchers have been studying butterfly wings to come up with optimum e-book display screens. The screen display known as Mirasol is built on the concept of the iridescence of a butterfly’s wing. This new technology works by reflecting light instead of transmitting light like LCD screens.Like the colourful wings of a butterfly, the display is full-colour and can be read in bright sunlight. Who would’ve thought that the frail butterflies would inspire reading screen!

It’s fascinating how we can learn from Nature to model technologies that enhance our world. Taking a page out of nature’s book, scientists and innovators have come up with the most fascinating inventions and discoveries. If you look carefully, almost all man-made things are actually based on nature’s designs – all geometries are found in nature! From music to colours, you can find analogies everywhere!


About Aditi Angiras

Aditi Angiras is a research scholar and has a Masters in English Literature. She's a poet and can be found at slam jams in Delhi. Likes collecting books, illustrating her poems and hip-hop. She's currently working as a freelance writer/editor to fund her first chapbook.