Originally published November 10 2004
Biomimetics breakthroughs: studying nature to develop practical technology for mankind
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
Biomimetics is a fascinating -- and fast-emerging -- field of research. Simply stated, it's the science of looking for solutions that have been engineered by nature. Previous biomimetics efforts lead to the development of velcro, and now an entire expo called "Nature's Wisdom" is dedicated to showcasing breakthroughs created by nature and recognized by scientists.
I'm a huge supporter of this sort of science: nature has much to teach us, and if we would have the patience to look at the solutions already provided by nature rather than trying to reinvent everything from scratch, we'd be richly rewarded for doing so.
Nowhere is this more true than in medicinal herbs, where nature has already provided an abundance of disease-preventing herbal medicines all around us -- in the deserts, forests, plains and jungles of the world. And yet only around 2% of the world's plant species have even been studied for possible medicinal benefits. Clearly, there are miraculous phytochemicals just waiting to be discovered and leveraged for the healing of chronic disease.
Yet biomimetics is really more about the physics of nature rather than the chemistry. Using biomimetics, scientists have created temperature-sensing clothing materials that mimic the adaptation response of pinecones. They've also studied the aerodynamics of insect wings to gain insight into advances for machine-powered flight.
Biomimetics is promising, fascinating, and essentially free. Nature has already conducted the research over the last few million years! All we have to do as humans is be smart enough to recognize that nature has already solved all sorts of problems that we are only beginning to encounter.
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- One day in 1948, the Swiss engineer George de Mestral was cleaning his dog of burrs picked up on a walk when he realized how the hooks of the burrs clung to the fur.
- His realization led to the invention of Velcro -- and a multimillion-dollar industry.
- De Mestral wasn't the first to be inspired by natural selection's engineering solutions.
- Leonardo da Vinci, for example, drew from nature in his designs for flying machines and ships.
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- But while biomimetics, as the field is now known, has a long history, until recently Velcro has been the only major commercial success.
- Now, as technological capability catches up with intellectual inspiration, biomimetics is starting to fulfill its potential.
- "At present there is only a 10 percent overlap between biology and technology in terms of the mechanisms used," said Julian Vincent, professor of biomimetics at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.
- "So I feel that there is huge potential."
- He is director of the Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies and one of the driving forces in the emerging field.
- His latest development is "smart" clothing that adapts to changing temperatures.
- Pinecones respond to warmer temperatures by opening their scales (to disperse their seeds).
- Vincent's smart clothing is one of the projects representing British science at the World Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan.
- "What we say to entrepreneurs is: Use our case history to develop your business," said Anja-Karina Pahl, a colleague of Vincent's at Bath.
- One of those successes is Greg Parker, professor of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.
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