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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s… both.
The human race has a lot to learn from the world around us.
The process of invention by mimicking nature, and designing biologically inspired components, is called biomimicry. Some of the World’s most famous inventors have used it in their designs. Even as far back as Leonardo Da Vinci we can see evidence of this. Throughout his notebooks, there are multiple annotations about the flight of birds and designs for planes.
The Wright Brothers spent a lot of time observing birds in flight and, off the back of this, achieved the first powered and controlled aeroplane flight back in 1903. The Kingfisher’s beak inspired the Shinkansen Bullet trains of Japan. Velcro was born out of a dog getting covered in burdock burrs. Glue used in complex surgeries, including cardio vascular surgeries, has been inspired by viscous secretions from a number of different animals.
Below we look at some of the more recent technological advances which have been inspired by animals.
1) Experimental fish car
Mercedes Benz has found inspiration for one of their cars from the box fish. Turns out, despite its slightly squat appearance, the box fish is aerodynamically excellent. As well as using the shape of the box fish to create the shape of the car, the designers looked to natural bone to dictate the way the car was structured. Using bones as the inspiration meant the car was stronger in just the right places as well as lighter overall. The result is that the designed car was incredibly efficient for its size. The car can zoom off at 0-60 miles per hour in just 8 seconds and has 70 mpg fuel economy. Big thumbs up for the box fish.
2) Firefly light bulbs
A swarm of fireflies buzzing through the night sky is one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful light-shows. They have helped scientists from Belgium and Canada get 50% more light out of existing LED light bulbs. Fireflies bioluminescence is emitted through their skeletons. However, like LED lights, some of the light is reflected back in by the outer coating, which has reduced the brightness of the light emitted. To tackle this, scientists looked to the Photuris firefly (which is a super bright firefly), which has jagged scales to help minimize internal reflections. By translating this to the coating of LED bulbs, the bulbs are now 50% brighter.
3) Hungry Penguin car software
Penguins are pretty good team players when it comes to hunting for fish. Software developers for smart car manufactures are now looking at the way penguins communicate to work together to gather food. As cars become more and more connected, organising the in-car software code to respond to its surroundings may very well be influenced by our little feathered friends.
4) Bird skeleton plane
Jump forward around 35 years and Airbus is hoping to fly you around the globe in a plane shaped like a bird skeleton. The concept for the plane is inspired by the bone structure of birds, with Airbus hoping it will have taken flight by 2050. The structure will give the plane strength where it is needed whilst also leaving more space. The plane will be pretty luxurious – spa treatments, virtual entertainment and hopefully more leg room. However, the ‘bionic bone’ structure of the plane is going to be the most impressive feature as it will allow people to have a panoramic view all around them.
So, next time you’re taking you dog for a walk, or playing with your cat, take a few minutes to think about how they could give you the inspiration you need to for the next big technological development.