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    Biomimicry: Beaks on trains and flippers-like turbines

    NewsEnvironment & Nature NewsFriday 28 October 2011
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    Since the dawn of time, nature has been working hard, engineering everyone and everything to the highest standards on Earth.
     
    Dragonflies that can propel themselves in any direction, sharks with skin with tiny scales that help them swim faster, termites able to build dens that always keep a steady and comfortable temperature inside - those examples are just a drop in the ocean of amazing nature-designed solutions.
     
    Granted, there have been a few individual attempts to copy nature's designs.
    For instance, back in the 15th Century, Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci looked at birds' anatomy while sketching his "flying machine".
     
    His device never took off, but the Wright brothers did manage to build the first aeroplane in 1903 - after years of observing pigeons.
    Still, several decades had to pass before businesses began realising that nature could really help them too.
     
    Probably one of the most notable nature-inspired technologies of the last century is the well-known hook-and-look fastener, Velcro. The man who invented it, Swiss George de Mestral, is said to have been inspired by burrs he constantly removed from his dog's fur.
     
    Innovation and copycats
     
    But it wasn't until the late 20th Century, that many firms really started to devote time, money and often an entire team of designers, specifically charged with looking at biological solutions to technological hurdles they came across.
     
    "It is important to look at nature - after all, it has had 3.8 billion years to come up with ideas," says Janine Benyus, a natural history writer who coined the term "biomimicry" in 1998.
    Solar cells that function just like leaves on a tree are a lot more efficient and can work even in low light
     
    Dr Benyus was the first person to really describe this emerging science in her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.
    She says that after the book went viral, entrepreneurs from all over the world started calling her, seeking advice on resolving a particular issue in a non-traditional, nature-copying way.
     
    So the world's first Biomimicry Institute was set up in 2005, with a team of consultants trained to help businesses.

    Source: BBC News


     

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