Biomimicry, biomimetics, bionics, bio-inspiration: Many words to imitate the world

bird pollination by Eustaquio Santimano

bird pollination by Eustaquio Santimano

Bio = the living, mimic = imitating

Nature is certainly humanities first source of inspiration for innovation. However, humanity is nowadays facing: global warming, overpopulation, waste issues, intensive farming, resource depletion… How come, by trying to imitate something that has worked and existed for 3.8 billion years, human beings have achieved to grow against its model?

There are many ways to mimic, and some are more responsible than others.

What’s a biomimetic innovation?

Velcro is probably the most well known example of biomimetics. Inspired by burs, it is largely used in sportswear. The strength of spider webs is another natural material that inspired bulletproof vests made of Kevlar.

Bur macro by Bram Cymet

Bur macro by Bram Cymet

Such brilliant innovations seem to be harmless to the environment and could not directly create global warming (even if we can always link them with some butterfly effect, but that would be extreme).

Above mimicking nature, learning from it.

Even if the Wikipedia definition of biomimicry says biomimetics, bionics, biognosis orbio-inspiration are all the same concepts. Biomimecry has a tiny, but yet, very important difference:

The term of biomimicry was introduced in the late 90’s by Janine Benyus and described in her book as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems”. The main idea that differentiates biomimicry from any other bio-inspiration concepts, according to Benuys is the notion of sustainability.

Janine Benuys : Biomimicry in action from TED 2009

Regarding that notion of sustainability, what is concrete biomimicry?

For example, EEL Energy a Paris Region SME has developed a marine current power system that imitates the waving of pelagic species (underwater organisms): they use a vibrating membrane that captures the mechanical energy from the waving and transforms it into electricity.

There are many other examples like artificial photosynthesis, butterflies wings reflection, mushrooms as a soil cleaner… The main idea is not to consume natural resources, but observe, learn and study micro or macro organisms in order to innovate responsibly and sustainably.

As Kalina Raskin Ph.D, and project manager for Biomimicry Europa says: Humans are one species among plenty of others and taking biomimicry as a strategy is only common sense.

 V.D.

To learn more about biomimicry:

http://www.asknature.org/

www.biomimicryeuropa.org

http://biomimicry.net/

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