Biomimicry is a term used to describe a new paradigm in which people try to imitate nature during the creation of their artificial products and systems. People have mimicked nature through three primary areas which include using nature as a model, as a mentor, and as a standard of measure (Reed 2003, p 23). In the past, there was a very close relationship between man and nature because its raw products gave the early man food, shelter, and clothing. Early man and nature had a very close symbiotic relationship. However, with evolution, there were changes that led to a different relationship as the man started to domesticate animals and grow crops for food. Those systems still heavily depended on nature. The major change came in the seventeenth century when people started to break down the world systems into parts. A good example is the blood circulatory system in which the relationships between different body organs and the blood flow are considered.
Areas of Mimic
Using nature as a model, people have created numerous products, for example, Velcro (Reed 2003, p 23). The product imitates natural seed hooks that attach themselves to objects that brush against them. Another example is the manufacturing of adhesives and paints. These attempts imitate natural bonds between creatures such as shellfish and other objects which form very strong bonds that man has not been able to match to date (Reed 2003, p 25).
While other people try to discover methods and means to control or extract from nature, biomimics are aimed at imitating the successful organization of natural systems. The complexity of storage and transfer of information in DNA strands had for years fascinated scientists. However, they have managed to copy the system in computers, and they hope they will soon develop biocomputers. Many other similar examples can be cited. Therefore, they use nature as a mentor.
Biomimetics have also used nature as a measure. They have observed the way nature determines the fate of its objects and how to deal with them when their time expires. Economic systems can be analogized with ecosystems to determine their sustainability. While some ecosystems are short-lived, others regenerate and fully sustain themselves. Biomimics try to use this as a measure to determine how businesses would survive economic storms.
The majority of scientific innovations are inspired by nature. It provides scientists with solutions to complex problems. One of these is the process of bonding paint molecules and the surface it is being smeared on to ensure that there is no seeping of water between them which would cause them to peel off. Naturally, such bonds even form underwater through a series of complex bonds that cannot be explained by any scientific evidence (Reed 2003, p 24). These natural bonds such as the one between a shellfish and its mating surface are so strong that they leave no chance for water to seep through (Reed 2003, p 25). People have, however, not been able to develop similar bonds, as most of the adhesives they use wear out after some time, especially after water finds its way between the two surfaces.
The solar panel development was an important scientific invention. It attempted to use the reactions of plant leaves surfaces during the process of photosynthesis to create food. Though the solar panel is not as efficient as the leaf surfaces, it borrows the idea of converting sun rays into a usable form (Reed 2003, p 24).
Nature is very orderly and has no waste. Products that are seen as waste at one point are regarded as a raw material in another area. This is similar to the concept that people have tried to use in minimizing waste in their working environment. Plastics, for instance, are re-molded to form new usable products, just like dead leaves are used as manure in a natural ecosystem.
The environment has been among the topics that many conventions and general humanity talk about today. The increase in population, as well as the release of pollutants, has pressured the environment to a highly significant level. People have tried to imitate the natural environment, which started with the domestication of animals and the growth of crops. While the natural way was to hunt for animals and search for plants for food and beauty, people have tried to create microenvironments that include rearing of pets, as well as growing of crops (Benyus 1997, p5). People grow plants for aesthetics so that they can have a good naturally looking environment, even in their homes. Also, they buy aquariums to mime fish ponds.
Furthermore, the invention of offices within buildings and passages interconnecting offices was inspired by anthills (Benyus 1997, p 129). Ants are renowned for their hard work, and this inspired the working environment within offices. A building can house thousands of employees working in different offices, but they all can access each other. They use doors and corridors such as those found in anthills. Anthills are also designed to regulate temperatures, just like offices within a building.
The environment has also inspired processes such as overhead irrigation. A stream of water would be destructive and erosive, thus, not good for irrigation. To avoid this, overhead sprinklers ensure that waterfalls on crops in a sprayed form, therefore, reducing the erosive ability, and it is beneficial to the crops. This is a biomimicry technique that is a model of rain falling in the form of drops.
Naturally, people have many limitations on the things that they can do by themselves. For instance, they can make only small leaps above the earth due to gravity. They can also lift a small load weighing a few pounds to a small height that they can reach. This has, however, not prevented people from performing bigger and seemingly impossible tasks. People have managed to create planes that fly long distances at very high speeds that might not compare with naturally flying creatures. Most of the people's inventions have been engineered through concepts that are inspired by nature. The shape of a plane is streamlined like that of most fast-flying birds to reduce friction with air during flight. According to The Airplanes Channel (2008), engineers also try to develop a plane which can flap its wings, thus, being more controllable. Further, the movement of birds in the air by drifting with the wind direction was an important aspect in the design and creation of the first sailboats (Dischino and Foster 2006, p8). They would also be moved by the drifting wind.
Another interesting inspirational biomimicry concept is the creation of robots. Some robots are six-legged like cockroaches and the movement of their six legs on a ragged terrain mimics the movement of cockroaches. Robot researchers in universities such as the University of California-Berkeley have successfully mimicked the cockroach to include features such as antennae to allow them to move through the dark (Dischino and Foster 2006, p8). There are many other objects such as an umbrella which is a portable shelter like that of tortoises and crabs.
Through biomimicry, people have been able to ease the process of completing tasks. They have been able to do much more than their strength allows them to. Through inspiration, modeling, and using nature as a pattern, people have managed to beat the physical barriers to create extraordinary tools, objects, and systems. They have been able to solve problems and broaden the scope of their activities. However, despite the help obtained from biomimicry, people harm the natural system while implementing their desired biomimetic projects. This is highly against the natural system that is fully sustainable, self-regulating, and effective. While biomimicking, they should ensure that they leave the natural systems to thrive so that future generations will have sources of inspiration while solving their then issues.