Velcro, bullet trains and robotic arms: how nature is the mother of invention – The Guardian

Lots of the world’s most inspiring options have been created by scientists who stole their concepts from the pure world
Learn extra: What happens when humans meddle with nature?
Over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, nature has labored out options to many issues. People have arrived late within the day and pinched them. For instance, Velcro was invented after a Swiss engineer marvelled on the burdock burrs that received caught to his canine’s fur; the concept for robotic arms got here from the movement and gripping skill of elephant trunks, and the entrance of Japan’s bullet trains have been redesigned to imitate a kingfisher’s streamlined beak, decreasing the sonic increase they made exiting tunnels.
There are various kinds of mimicry, probably the most simple is the easy concept of copying one thing that exists in nature. Buildings are an apparent instance, as outlined by research published in Nature. The Beijing nationwide stadium is impressed by a chicken’s nest, the Lotus Temple in India is formed, unsurprisingly, like a lotus and the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai is formed like a palm tree.
Subsequent, there may be mimicry of each design and performance, reminiscent of camouflage costume being impressed by nature’s skill to disguise itself. Then there may be mimicry solely for perform, for instance the blades in noiseless followers are modelled on whale fins and gecko tape on the lizard’s sticky toes.
Our skill to repeat nature is turning into extra refined due to advances in nanotechnology. The atomic pressure microscope, invented within the Nineteen Eighties, makes use of a probe with a really sharp tip 1,000 instances smaller than a width of hair and might intently scan pattern supplies. This has facilitated the event of biomimicry, which permits higher replication of pure supplies than ever earlier than.
Saurav Goel, a professor in manufacturing at London South Financial institution College, is working to engineer supplies that decompose, as sustainable options to ones presently getting used. “Plastics, glass, cement and alloys are widespread engineering supplies and their recycling consumes quite a lot of vitality. It signifies that their pure decomposition will take a number of a long time. This can be a major roadblock to sustainability,” he says.
His staff is making an attempt to replicate dragonfly wings, that are naturally antibacterial, to be used in synthetic physique components as a result of they may very well be extra hygienic than present supplies. His purpose is to create a “bio-robot” within the subsequent 50 years which has mushy tissues that resemble these of a human. “To us, our human physique is the proper organic machine,” he says.
1. Scientists have lengthy been impressed at how properly mussels cling to rocks underwater. Now, they are working out how to replicate their sticky proteins to create a non-toxic glue that immediately sticks supplies collectively, even underwater. It may very well be used to shut wounds after surgical procedure.
2. Watching how geese swim in a row is providing clues to shipping goods around the world in additional vitality environment friendly methods. When a duckling finds the “candy spot” behind its mom, one thing known as “damaging wave interference” happens: as a substitute of the drag holding the duckling again, it truly pulls it ahead so it makes use of much less vitality to paddle alongside. Different ducklings within the line profit too. If ships travelled as a part of “water-trains” they might carry extra cargo with no further gas.
3. Plant roots are capable of selectively suck up water and particular vitamins wanted for progress. Scientists try to imitate them to create better water purification strategies.
4. The chameleon’s colour-changing pores and skin accommodates little crystals, which replicate gentle in a different way relying on how massive they’re, or how they’re organized – to vary color they merely tense or chill out their pores and skin. Scientists are understanding how you can copy the way in which they alter their colors based mostly on their surroundings to make artificial “smart skins” which may very well be used as camouflage or signalling over lengthy distances.
5. Crops produce meals by photosynthesis, and after they do that they suck carbon dioxide out of the environment. For many years, scientists have been making an attempt to copy this course of as a option to produce vitality and deal with the local weather disaster. Researchers in California have now managed to show carbon dioxide into ethanol (which can be utilized as gas) utilizing a makeshift solar-powered cell.
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