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Biomimicry - Using Nature's Blueprints

Humans don’t always get it right, but Mother Nature usually does. Here are some examples of using nature to innovate.

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1. Sharkskin Suit

Matt9122/Shutterstock; Michael Kappeler/AFP / Getty Images / Via sites.psu.edu

This swimsuit is made to mimic the skin of a shark which has tons of overlapping pieces called dermal denticles. It cuts down on the drag of water allowing the wearer to swim super fast. Remember Michael Phelps circa 2008 Summer Olympics? This type of material is also used on ships to stop barnacles and algae from growing on them!

2. V-Formation Flying

Kevin Burkett/flickr; Ana Gram/Shutterstock / Via sciencemag.org

Scientists have recently discovered that migratory birds fly in a V formation to save energy during flight by catching the preceding bird’s updraft. They even sync wing flaps! This model has been adapted to groups of jets and been shown to save fuel.

3. Echolocation

opteksystems.com.au[1].jpg / Via blog.adafruit.com

Bats and dolphins are two species that use echolocation (sending sound waves out and “reading” how they bounce back) to navigate and find food. But now, vision impaired humans can also use echolocation via a cane that vibrates when it detects objects in it’s path!

4. Bird? Train? Both?

sites.psu.edu / Via biomimicry.org , asknature.org

The Shinkansen Bullet Train in Japan goes really fast – 200 mph fast- but every time it entered a tunnel, a boom could be heard ¼ mi away. To solve this problem, designers looked to the Kingfisher, a bird that dives into water to catch it’s prey – without a splash! It’s wedge shaped beak and rounded head provided a design solution for the train allowing its speed to be maintained without the deafening boom.

5. Beetle Juice – Stenocara Beetle

nanooze.org / Via sites.psu.edu

This desert dweller is able to collect water droplets straight out of the air by using the tiny, wax covered bumps all over its shell. MIT researchers have taken this design and created a material that is much more efficient at water collection than previous methods.

6. Stuck on You!

cpreiser000,Stocksnapper/Shutterstock / Via mnn.com

Burrs are really great at sticking to things. Ever walked through tall grass and came out the other side covered in not-so-fluffy pompoms? Not so fun, but if George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, hadn’t had this happen to his dog, we wouldn’t have Velcro! The little hooks on the spikes of burrs inspired him to design Velcro.

7. Lotus Flower Paint

wordpress.com / Via mnn.com

Remember the Sharkskin suit? Well the lotus flower is similar. It’s surface naturally rids itself of dirt through the use of microscopic points by holding the dirt just above the leaf or petal where water can easily wash it away. This concept has been applied to paint so that when applied to the outside of a home, it rarely, if ever, needs to be washed!

8. Squid Camo

Gary Bell / Via digitaltrends.com

Cephalopods, like squids and octopus, can glow and change their skin color via specialized skin cells and the accompanying muscles. Scientists at the University of Houston have developed a technology that can mimic its environment within seconds, much like cephalopods can, using light sensors and reflectors on a pixelated grid. Can you say cloak of invisibility?

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