Biomimetics (the imitation of nature) continues to promise cool gadgets and useful materials that will someday yield prized gifts under the tree.  Some of them might even save your life.

Combo Plate:  We begin with an article on the BBC News that listed a smorgasbord of treats coming from biomimetic research.  In “Biomimicry: Beaks on trains and flipper-like turbines,” technology reporter Katia Moskvitch writes, “Since the dawn of time, nature has been working hard, engineering everyone and everything to the highest standards on Earth.”  The opening eye-catching photo shows caterpillars hatching out of their cathedral-like eggs, reminiscent of scenes from the documentary Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies.  Here’s a short list from her article of natural designs representing “just a drop in the ocean of amazing nature-designed solutions” that are finding their way into engineering labs:

  • Dragonflies, able to propel in any direction, inspiring hovercraft
  • Shark skin that eliminates friction
  • Termites that build air-conditioned mounds
  • Birds that inspired the Wright Brothers and Leonardo da Vinci
  • Weed burrs that inspired Velcro
  • Tree leaves that inspire solar cells
  • Butterfly wings that are leading to better gadget displays
  • Whale flippers that are helping model better turbine blades
  • Lotus leaves as models for waterproof surfaces
  • Bird beak shapes that help reduce drag on high-speed trains
  • Spider web reflective secrets that can warn birds of glass

Lisa Welch, who is working on the reflective glass, commented, “I’m sure all of the answers to what we are wanting to solve exist in some form or another, in nature.”….

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