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  • Writer's picturePete Ward


Biomimetics or biomimicry is the emulation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. It is an approach to design and innovation that finds inspiration in the function of living organisms. At its core, biomimetic philosophy is that nature's inhabitants including animals, plants, and microbes have the most experience in solving problems and have already found the most appropriate ways to last on planet Earth. Living beings have adapted to a constantly changing environment during evolution through mutation, recombination, and selection. To not utilize design created by nature is to recreate the wheel. 

The idea of connecting biologists, ecologists and other life scientists with designers and product engineers in the design process was introduced by Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry Institute. This design methodology can be applied to the creation of materials, products, and solutions for a wide variety of fields and human systems including biochemistry fluid mechanics, physical chemistry, materials design, architecture, energy, textiles, medicine, transportation, and agriculture.

Nature has gone through evolution over the 3.8 billion years since life is estimated to have appeared on the Earth. It has evolved species with high performance using commonly found materials. Surfaces of solids interact with other surfaces and the environment and derive the properties of materials. Biological materials are highly organized from the molecular to the nano-, micro-, and macroscales, often in a hierarchical manner with intricate nanoarchitecture that ultimately makes up a myriad of different functional elements. Properties of materials and surfaces result from a complex interplay between surface structure and morphology and physical and chemical properties. Many materials, surfaces, and objects in general provide multifunctionality.

Various materials, structures, and devices have been fabricated for commercial interest by engineers, material scientists, chemists, and biologists, and for beauty, structure, and design by artists and architects. Nature has solved engineering problems such as self-healing abilities, environmental exposure tolerance and resistance, hydrophobicity, self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy. Economic impact of bioinspired materials and surfaces is significant, on the order of several hundred billion dollars per year worldwide.

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