Biomimicry: Designing the Future with Mother Nature’s Help

  on November 21 2011 11:20 AM

From robot snakes to breathable mattresses designed after honeycombs, more innovative designs are using the art and science of biomimicry. The field of biomimicry has already given consumers hundreds of products and devices that are based on nature.

Biomimicy is a discipline that imitates designs and processes based on nature for products. Mother Nature is the consummate engineer. Nature's designs have been tweaked and placed through millennia of research and development to make the most efficient organisms. In nature organisms are more energy efficient because of the scarcity of that resource. Following the strategies of plants and animals will result in devices and processes that are economical and cost effective. Humans are now looking at nature for ideas to solve human problems in a sustainable manner.

Biomimicry isn't an entirely new concept. Joseph Paxton was influenced by giant water lilies for his design of the Crystal Palace that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851. Velcro was developed after Swiss engineer George de Mestral observed the way burdock seeds attached to his clothes and the fur of his dog.

Now that the world is facing the problems of global warming and looking for alternative energy source, biomimicry is again coming to the forefront for designers and scientist.

 "Imitating natural systems is about trying to mimic the amazing effectiveness of ecosystems, where the waste from one system or animal is used as the nutrients for another," says Michael Pawlyn, the director of a sustainable architecture firm and one of the designers of the Eden Project in Cornwall. "Often, by applying ideas from ecosystems you can turn problems into solutions that are better both environmentally and commercially."

Janine Benyus who coined the term biomimicry was the first person to really describe it in her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. She set up the world's first Biomimicy Institute in 2005 with a team of consultants that can help businesses who want to resolve an issue in a nature-copying way.  

"They come in, we learn what it is they're trying to do, and we look for that same function in the natural world - we do huge biological literature searches," says Benyus.

According to Benyus there are three types of biomimicry- copying the form and shape from nature, copying a process and mimicking at an ecosystem's level. Here are some examples of biomimicry at work today and plans for the future.

Join the Discussion