Inventions have been and continue to be influenced massively by the marvels of evolution – we’re building houses like snail shells to keep cool, plucking needle designs from the porcupine, and even giving trains bird-like nose jobs to make them quieter.Share
MORE NOSE, LESS NOISE – THE BULLET TRAIN
Bullet trains are a big industry in Japan, and the faster the locomotive designs get, the louder they become. Some trains were creating such noise that people were beginning to complain – so it was back to the drawing board. How did engineers reduce the sound level? By observing nature’s streamlining – basing the noses of future trains on the beak of a kingfisher! Its naturally slim nose allows for little disturbance in and out of water – so the same should apply to train tunnels, too.
THE WINGED WATCHER – THE SPY BAT
While some inventions borrow one or two animal traits, some go whole hog and almost become the creature they’re mimicking. A miniature, solar-powered spy plane commissioned by the American military is essentially a bat with a camera on its face! With it being so small (no bigger than a regular bat) it can only gather so much information, but its great design will probably allow it to go mainly undetected.
PRICKLY PRACTITIONER – PORCUPINE QUILLS
The sting of one of a porcupine’s many quills is excruciating – which is plainly why it doesn’t get picked on much. This is due to its prongs being barbed – meaning its quills are prickly both to the tip and all along – and researchers have found that it is harder to get a quill in than it is to get one out – giving them scope to look at developing easy-remove medicinal syringes and plasters that don’t hurt when you peel them off!
COOL CRAWLERS – TERMITE MOUND BUILDING
While termites are probably better known for being a pest when they get out of hand, they’ve also helped inspire a new way of helping buildings retain temperature and keep cool in hot weather. This is done by ventilating the building through the bottom, and expelling warm air that rises up through the top through chimneys or funnels like a termite mound! Who needs to spend thousands on air conditioning when you can just shoot all the hot air out the top?”
PLIANT CLIMBING – GECKO PADS
Geckos are brilliant, perhaps more so than any other creature, at climbing anything without losing footing. This is due to their footpads being extremely sticky – and they can keep their stickiness no matter how far they travel. This is down to an amazing collection of microscopic hairs on their feet which can actually penetrate the natural structure of almost any material. Research is taking place to create a new glue which never loses its pliancy – and geckos are to thank for the inspiration!
WAND OF WAVES – THE ULTRACANE
Along with the miniature spyplane we’ve already featured, the bat has proven to be a popular animal to mimic as it’s cited as a major inspiration for a brand of walking cane for the blind! The Ultracane is designed and sold as a walking stick that is fitted with sensors that pick up on sound waves – meaning that it can sense when an object near its user moves. This is extremely similar to how bats manoeuvre in the pitch darkness!
TACK TO THE FUTURE – THE FELINE THUMBTACK
Japanese brainbox Toshi Fukaya is responsible for using biomimicry to help safeguard human hands against those fiddliest of stationery items, the thumbtack. Seeing that cats are able to retract and release their claws at will, Fukaya designed a pin that is protected by a sheath until you stick it into something – giving it the same retracting action a moggy’s claws have!
LAMPREY FOR A CURE – SWIMMING ROBOTS
Sea lampreys aren’t known for being pleasant to look at – tiny, snake-like swimmers with masses of teeth and very little else – but they’re actually incredibly important to medical research at the moment. British researchers are developing a minute robot designed on the lamprey’s basic bodily structure and innate swimming ability that will be able to swim through a human bloodstream – and using organic and muscular signalling, pick up on any undetected illnesses!
SPI-REAL ESTATE – THE SNAIL HOUSE
Much like the termite-inspired funnel building, this Iranian university project has won awards for its use of animal evolution to inspire cooler buildings yet to come. The house is a futuristic, white construct, built from curved panels – it’s said the curves and slants catch rays from the sun to prevent full glare from roasting the inside of the building – and this is exactly how snail shells work, and why they will retreat inside in hot weather.”
LET IT GLOW – FIREFLY LEDs
Biomimicry is currently being used in lighting research to help make LEDs (light-emitting diodes) more efficient and overall more effective. Researchers the world over have discovered that fireflies have corrugated scales which allow their glowing stomachs to emit more light – having likened the scales to the tiling of a factory roof, development is now underway to develop a universal coating for all LEDs based on firefly skin!”
STINGING CYBORG – THE ROBOT JELLYFISH
The US Navy are sponsoring a project to launch an aquatic self-powered robot that will roam the seas for research and environmental purposes. It’s built exactly like a jellyfish – due to the primitive but effortless swimming of the creature, which engineers believe will allow the robot to be extremely energy-efficient. It’ll also be completely autonomous – meaning its batteries will power up from hydrogen in the water it swims through!”
IS IT A BIRD? NO, IT’S A PLANE – ROBOSWIFT
The RoboSwift is a remarkable creation that is the brainchild of the Delft University of Technology – which on the face of it, it looks like any other remote-controlled plane. However, having been built with the super-quick swift as animal inspiration, this robotic doppelgänger can fold its wings back to reduce drag and maintain speed! It’s also fitted with three cameras – two on the front to monitor the air, and one on its stomach to survey the ground beneath it!”
HEFFALUMP HAND – THE BIONIC HANDLING ASSISTANT
German engineering brainboxes Festo have created an amazing robotic arm that’s only become a reality thanks to the flexibility of the elephant’s trunk! While it flexes out and moves just like a Pachyderm nose, it has four handy ‘fingers’ at its end, allowing it to pick up objects. This automated helper has been designed for use in areas as diverse as hospitals, research facilities and factories.”
DEEP SEA READERS – TABLET COATING
Scientists are currently looking at ways how colour-changing Cephalopods – aquatic creatures such as cuttlefish – can inspire future technology for tablet computers and e-readers! It’s been discovered that cuttlefish change colour and patterns through pigmentation and therefore lack the need to generate any extra light to do so – which some computer coating brainboxes are hoping will lead the way to developing touch screen devices that can not only be read in sunlight, but also be far more energy efficient.