Nature-Inspired Innovation: 9 Examples of Biomimicry in Action

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The goal was to cut out the extremely loud claps that occurred when Japan's bullet train emerged from tunnels. Engineers looked toward the kingfisher, which dives seamlessly into water. A nosecone designed after the bird's beak solved the issue. Photo of train via wikipedia; photo of kingfisher via Len Blumin

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Scientist Dr. Ned Allen was inspired by the maple seeds he saw flitting to the earth as a boy, and used that memory for this remote-controlled Nano Air Vehicle that would be utilized by the military for missions in challenging weather. DARPA, the backer of this idea, in conjunction with AeroVironment, are looking towards nature for more ideas for nano air vehicles, including hummingbirds. Photo via Lockheed Martin

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Pax Technologies took the calla lily's shape as inspiration for a water mixer. The flower's centripetal spirals assist with the ideal flow of liquid, which allows their design to mix more liquid with a fraction of the horse power usually required. Using nature's perfected designs helps minimize energy requirements. Image of impeller via PAX Scientific, all rights reserved; Image of calla lily via the equinest

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Qualcomm looked towards the unique properties of butterfly wings to improve display technology. These highly developed structures reflect light so that specific wavelengths interfere with each other to create bright colors. This same principle was applied to cutting-edge display technology to make brighter, more readable, lower-power displays in mobile devices. Photo of device via Qualcomm; photo of butterfly via Izzy LeCours

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Mercedes-Benz looked towards the boxfish for their bionic car concept. Noting the aerodynamics and efficiency of the boxfish's shape, the engineers decided to apply the characteristics of the fish to a car. The result is a very streamlined vehicle with a 65% lower drag coefficient than other compact cars out at the time (2005). Photos via Daimler

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What better examples to use for underwater turbine design than the flora and fauna of the oceans? BioPower Systems did just this. Looking at the way sea plants move in currents and the efficient movements of fish like sharks and tuna, BioPower used evolution as its role model for designing turbines for effective tidal power generation. Photo of turbines via BioPower; photo of kelp and fish via Tim Parkinson

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Ocean-based biomimicry works for above-water turbines as well. WhalePower president Dr. Frank E. Fish figured out that the reason Humpback whales are so agile despite their size stems from the bumps on their fins. Calling it Tubercle Technology, the company has designed wind turbine blades that utilize the same physical streamlining properties to help them be quieter, more reliable when winds fail, are perform better in turbulent winds. Photo of turbine blade via WhalePower; photo of whale via Getty Images

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If you've ever tried to pick a mussel off a rock or pier piling, you've likely noticed that they sure know how to stick to something. Columbia Forest Products looked at the natural adhesive abilities of the blue mussel and came up with a way to use soy-based formaldehyde-free technology in the construction of hardwood plywood products. Photo of wood via Columbia Forest Products; photo of mussels via fragpot

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Biomimicry can be used at even the tiniest of scales. Biosignal wanted to create a way to control bacteria without killing it, so that bacterial resistance can be avoided while preventing infection. The company took inspiration from the seaweed delisea pulchra, which has a way of stopping bacteria's ability to communicate. Colonies of bacteria then cannot form and cause infection, yet the bacteria isn't killed and doesn't form a resistant strain. Photos via Biosignal