Biomimicry is when we observe a trait in nature and copy it or parts of it for human technology and design. There are numerous examples of biomimicry in action. Science writer Janine Benyus articulates nine principles in her 1997 book Biomimicry:
1. Nature runs on sunlight
2. Nature uses only the energy it needs
3. Nature fits form to function
4. Nature recycles everything
5. Nature rewards cooperation
6. Nature banks on diversity
7. Nature demands local expertise
8. Nature curbs excesses from within
9. Nature taps the power of limits
Perhaps the most famous example of biomimicry is Velcro. In 1941, engineer George de Mestral was walking his dog when he noticed burrs (like the ones in the picture) sticking to both of them. When he studied the burrs under magnification he found their clinging property was the result of hundreds of tiny hooks. His observation sparked the idea for the very useful invention we know as Velcro fastening.
Here are some other examples of biomimicry:
Down feather insulation: Heavy winter coats are stuffed with down or other feathers so that we can stay warm without flying south for the winter.
Termite mound cooling: The way these tiny insects drill holes in their mounds to cool down in the hot African Savannah has inspired architects to develop buildings that are more efficient.
Beetle water collection: The dung beetle may be most popular for other attributes, but it also collects fog on its shell and funnels it to its mouth to drink in arid environments. This has inspired researchers to study how we can pull fresh water from fog or dew.
Spider web glass: A spider’s web is one of the strongest designs in nature. The webbing pattern has been copied by automotive industries so that windshields crack but do not shatter.