Posted by: DmitriLogunov | March 15, 2010

What can we learn from nature?

Biomimetics, known also as bionics, is the concept of taking ideas from nature and translating them into engineering designs that can be used to implement products or tools. Why would we want to do so? Primarily, for biological structures existing in the natural world are likely to be of adequate or optimum designs. Otherwise they wouldn’t exist. The natural world is by its very nature sustainable, and thus there should be lots of good sustainable and energy efficient examples. 

Biomimetics is a relatively recent academic field based on using good design from nature, centered at the Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies at the University of Bath, UK (online at: http://www.biotriz.com/about.shtml), but with adherents everywhere (e.g. at the University of Reading <http://www.reading.ac.uk/Biomim/>). Biomimetics may also be seen as a way of causing environmentalist types to open up more to technology as a source of elegant solutions to everyday problems.

 There are various applications of biomimetics conceptualized by researchers from the University of Bath. For instance, sun-glasses that are unbreakable, cannot be scratched and do not reflect rays, i.e. do not attract attention. They are designed on the prototype of eye-lashes, which possess the same properties.

Some other examples include the following items.

Barbed tape is based on the prototype of the monkey-puzzle tree, which has flat (2D)spikes, which form complex 3D structures. This barbed tape is easy and safe to handle, compact and convenient to store and transport. The barbes “appear” only in the very course of deployment itself.

Flexible coupling without joints inspired by the sun-flower rotative mechanism.

Cat’s claws wheel based on the retractable and protractable claws of a cat. Such kind of the wheel can easily operate on the try tarmac surface and on the icy road.

These cardboard models represents the functional model of the natural ciliar actuator. This model was implemented for the lab-on-a-chip devices in the EU based ARTIC project supported by Philips. The next generation of actuators is represented by the model called “Metachrone” that operates in the most natural mode creating the travelling (metachronal) wave along the artificial cilia row. This allows to pump micro-amounts of very viscous liquids. There are also the models of artificial cilia, which show the asymmetrical flexibility in course of beating.

Dr Nikolai Bogatyrev (the University of Bath) is thanked for providing us with images and information about his ongoing research.

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