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Biomimicry

Biomimicry

    Biomimicry   

    "innovation inspired by nature."   

Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a new science that studies nature's best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example. The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on Earth. This is the real news of biomimicry: After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival. The truth is, organisms have managed to do everything we want to do, without guzzling fossil fuels, polluting the planet, or mortgaging their future.

What better models could there be? We are learning, for instance, how to harness energy like a leaf, grow food like a prairie, build ceramics like an abalone, self-medicate like a chimp, compute like a cell, and run a business like a hickory forest. Back before our world was full, and we always had somewhere else to go, this colonising "Type I" strategy allowed us to stay one step ahead of reality. These days, when we've gone everywhere there is to go, we have to forget about colonising and learn to close the loops.

Closing the loops means trying to emulate the natural communities that know how to stay put without consuming their ecological capital. Mature ecosystems such as oak-hickory forests are masters of optimizing, rather than maximising, throughput. They recycle all their wastes, use energy and materials efficiently, and diversify and cooperate to use the habitat without bankrupting it. Ecologists call these Type III communities. Industrial ecologists are trying to glean lessons from natural communities to actually shift our economy from Type I to Type III. From ragweeds to redwood forests.

    Natural system and what it inspired (or might):    

  • Abalone mussel
    (mother of pearl ) Hard coatings-for windshields and bodies of solar cars, airplanes, anything that needs to be lightweight but fracture-resistant.
     
  • Orb-weaver spider silk
    New fibre manufacturing technique-A way to manufacture fibre without using high heat, high pressure, or toxic chemicals.
     
  • Rhinoceros horn
    Self-healing material-that is both compressively and laterally strong — a new fender?
     
  • Dolphin and shark skin
    Submarines-Hull material that deforms slightly to shrug off water pressure.
     
  • Marshes
    Constructed wetlands-sewage treatment facilities that clean a community's water while doubling as a wildlife refuge.
     
  • Venomous snakes
    Just-in-time manufacturing-Like snakes, we should manufacture noxious chemicals in tiny amounts right at the assembly line, so we don't have to store them in bulk.

‘Biomimicry explained’ by Jenine Benyus, author of the book ‘Biomimicry’, www.biomimicry.org

 

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Biomimicry