Biomimesis: from natural to artificial

Biology and technology for sustainability

Sustainable innovation through biomimicry

In order to find innovative solutions to improve human activities and technologies, it is possible to refer to biomimicry, a discipline that studies and imitates the biological and biomechanical process of nature and living beings.

We can easily take nature as an inspirational model to create sustainable innovation and reduce energy consumption at the same time. And this is only the starting point to a constantly increasing learning experience. But what exactly are we referring to when we talk about biomimicry? And what are some positive examples to imitate?

What is biomimicry

The shifting of the biological process from a natural reality to an artificial configuration was officially defined as biomimicry in 1974. The term biomimicry comes from the Greek “bios”, which means life, and “mimesis”, which translates to imitation. The biomimetic discipline allows us to examine specific characteristics of living organisms and take them as a prototype to create smart and technological solutions to help the environment.

If biology serves as a beginning source of inspiration, technology does its part with its ability to recreate the structures and functions of cells. Basically, through biomimicry it is possible to express the link that connects biology to technology.

As claimed by Janine Benyus, one of the leading representatives of biomimicry, “to win the fight for survival, plants and animals have evolved solutions aimed at the lowest possible consumption of resources”; biomimicry is also indeed for solutions that help reduce energy consumption.

Some examples in history

Let’s look at a few examples of how nature influences various artificial inventions.

How could we not mention the famous Leonardo da Vinci! He was possibly the greatest biomimicry adept in history, always busy observing the natural world around him and draw inspiration from it. Although he never succeeded in creating a flying machine, he was deeply fascinated by the anatomy and abilities of birds, with his studies resulting in several notes and sketches.

In Italy, they invented this photovoltaic flowery panel, which was given the gracious name of Girasole, aka Sunflower, as its system is able to rotate following the movement of the sun – pretty much like the actual flower.

This solar panel combines aesthetics and design and is devised to be highly resistant. It can be installed anywhere and moved around when needed without any fuss. Il Girasole is cutting-edge, sustainable and low-cost.

A well-known and perhaps one of the most fascinating examples of biomimicry, is the Eastgate Building Center in Harare, Zimbabwe; a marvel of green architecture, designed by architect Mick Pearce.

Given the very high temperatures of the place where it stands, its revolutionary feature definitely consists of its innovative ventilation system. The architect got his inspiration from the African mud mounds built by the termites, applying the same principles of self-cooling to the ventilation system.

In fact, termite mounds are rather complex structures made of mud and capable of maintaining the internal area at a constantly cool temperature, thanks to tunnels carefully dug into the subsoil that create a ventilated environment.

The corresponding human building uses 10% less energy than any other building of the same size; indeed, a fascinating example of how little, witty engineers can inspire big things, on the road to smart energy consumption.

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