Biomimicry

Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems.[1] The term biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Similar terms include bionics.[2] Over the last 3.6 billion years,[3] nature has gone through a process of trial and error to refine the living organisms, processes, and materials on planet Earth. The emerging field of biomimetics has given rise to new technologies created from biologically inspired engineering at both the macro scale and nanoscale levels. Biomimetics is not a new idea. Humans have been looking at nature for answers to both complex and simple problems throughout our existence. Nature has solved many of today's engineering problems such as hydrophobicity, wind resistance, self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy through the evolutionary mechanics of selective advantages. One of the early examples of biomimicry was the study of birds to enable human flight. Although never successful in creating a "flying machine", Leonardo da Vinci (14521519) was a keen observer of the anatomy and flight of birds, and made numerous notes and sketches on his observations as well as sketches of "flying machines".[4] The Wright Brothers, who succeeded in flying the first heavier-than-air aircraft in 1903, derived inspiration from observations of pigeons in flight.[5] Otto Schmitt, an American academic and inventor, coined the term biomimetics to describe the transfer of ideas from biology to technology.[6] He developed the Schmitt trigger while attempting to replicate the biological system of nerve propagation.[7] The term biomimetics ent red Websters Dictionary in 1974 and is defined as "the study of the formation, structure, or function of biologically produced substances and materials (as enzymes or silk) and biological mechanisms and processes (as protein synthesis or photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of synthesizing similar products by artificial mechanisms which mimic natural ones". In 1960, the term bionics was coined by psychiatrist and engineer Jack Steele to mean "the science of systems which have some function copied from nature".[2] Bionics entered the Webster dictionary in 1960 as "a science concerned with the application of data about the functioning of biological systems to the solution of engineering problems". Bionic took on a different connotation when Martin Caidin referenced Jack Steele and his work in the novel Cyborg which later resulted in the 1974 television series The Six Million Dollar Man and its spin-offs. The term bionic then became associated with 'the use of electronically operated artificial body parts' and 'having ordinary human powers increased by or as if by the aid of such devices'.[8] Because the term bionic took on the implication of supernatural strength, the scientific community in English speaking countries largely abandoned it.[9] The term biomimicry appeared as early as 1982.[10] Biomimicry was popularized by scientist and author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Biomimicry is defined in the 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". Benyus suggests looking to Nature as a "Model, Measure, and Mentor" and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry.