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Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a relatively new science that studies nature, its models, systems, processes and elements and then imitates or takes creative inspiration from them to solve human problems sustainably. Biomimetics is the word most frequently used in scientific and engineering literature that is meant to indicate the process of understanding and applying (to human designs) biological principles that underlie the function of biological entities at all levels of organization. This includes biomaterials, biomechanics, biological systems composed of individuals of one species (e.g. schools, herds and swarms), or multispecies ensembles.


[edit] Examples

One example is the attempt to learn from and emulate the amazing ability of termites to maintain virtually constant temperature and humidity in their Sub-Saharan Africa homes despite an outside temperature variation from 3 °C to 42 °C (35 °F at night to 104 °F during the day.) Project TERMES (Termite Emulation of Regulatory Mound Environments by Simulation) scanned a termite mound, created 3-D images of the mound structure and provided the first ever glimpse of construction that may likely change the way we build our own buildings. The Eastgate Centre, a mid-rise office complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, (highlighted in this Biomimicry Institute case-study) stays cool without air conditioning and uses only 10% of the energy of a conventional building its size.

Another example is modeling the echolocation of bats in darkness and adapting that functionality into a cane for the visually impaired. Research performed at the University of Leeds (in the UK) led to the UltraCane, a product formerly manufactured, marketed and sold by Sound Foresight Ltd.

One specific study that was discovered by Benyus herself was on a spider, selectively the silk of the webs that it spins. With the flexibility, yet rigidness, the product has potential of many uses in our modern civilization. She came to a conclusion that the silk is almost, if not, stronger, than actual Kevlar in bulletproof vests. It also could be used among structures or elements in today’s culture, such as lightweight lines for parachutes, cables for suspension bridges, as well as artificial ligaments and sutures in the medical practice.

Other research has provided new ideas such as adhesive glue from mussels, self-air conditioned structures like termites, solar cells like leaves, bionic cars like a boxfish, clothing like shark’s skin, harvesting water from fog like a beetle, and more. Nature’s 100 Best is a compilation of the top hundred different innovations of animals, plants, and other organisms that have been researched and studied by the Biomimicry Institute.

[edit] Organizations

Biomimicry would not have come this far today if it was not for specific organizations and individuals to support it. Because the concept of research is very specific and time consuming not many people have heard of it. The development of Nature’s 100 Best was contributed by the work of Ecover, Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives, as well as the World Conservation Union. Without their support this research could not have been possible. These people or major corporations can help establish projects that will design ideas for the future, like Kalundborg, Kwinana Synergies Project, and Oil Mallee Project, which are more on the lines of industrial ecology, but also utilize and emulate nature. The leading organization advocating biomimicry in the field of agriculture is The Land Institute.

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