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Need a Solution to a Business Problem? Take a Cue From Mother Nature

Some of the world’s greatest product innovations are thanks to biomimicry. Here are 7 examples to prove it.

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BY Logan Chierotti - 05 Dec 2017

Need a Solution to a Business Problem? Take a Cue From Mother Nature

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Are you looking for an innovative product idea? Is there a design problem you can't quite wrap your head around?

If so, maybe it's time to look outside yourself and take a cue from Mother Nature.

Biomimicry is a method of design that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature. Although the term is not new, it was popularized by Janine Benyus in her 1997 book, "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature."

Benyus, who operates the world's first bio-inspired consultancy, contends that nature can not only inspire new design processes but can also help us create a healthier, more sustainable planet.

Don't believe study nature can lead to massive product breakthroughs?

Here are 7 fantastic products stories to prove it:

  1. Velcro by studying burrs - Upon returning from a hunting trip in 1941, Swiss engineer George de Mestral realized his dog was covered in burrs. Curious about the structure of these pesky clingers, de Mestral put one under his microscope and discovered that tiny hooks and teeth were responsible for the dried seeds sticking power. De Mestral worked on creating his a version for commercial application, gaining a patent for Velcro in 1955.
  2. Better needles from mosquitoes - Ever wondered how mosquitoes bites appear from nowhere? The tip of their mouth uses many moving parts to enter the skin in a way that causes the least irritation. The insects have helped scientists create less invasive needles for medical applications.
  3. More aerodynamics trains from birds - High-speed trains can be loud, especially when exiting a tunnel, as air pressure builds in waves before exiting with a loud popping noise. To address this problem, a Japanese engineer used the design of the King Fisher bird's beak, which allows it to dive into the water with very little ripple on the surface. The result was quieter, more aerodynamic trains.
  4. Learning from shark skin - The skin of sharks is made from microscopic patterns called dentricles, which reduce drag and keep sharks free of microscopic organisms. By studying the structure of dentricles, commercial applications have been developed and applied to boats, planes, and windmills. The result is less drag and conservation of energy.
  5. Fish help create more aerodynamic cars - A box isn't usually thought of as an aerodynamic shape. However, by studying the Box Fish, Mercedes Benz engineers developed a two-door compact vehicle, which is proving to be one the most efficient designs for any car in its class.
  6. Increasing wind power through whale fins - Noticing that some whales had a series of bumps and ridges on the front-half of their fins, biology professor Frank Fish applied the design to reduce drag and noise. The result is increased power production of up to 20%.
  7. Learning from Geckos - It's hard not to marvel at the superhuman climbing abilities of Geckos. Taking a cue from the unique design of a Gecko's feet, a team of researchers from Amherst developed a new adhesive product called Geckskin. The result is an adhesive so powerful that an index-sized card can hold up to 700 lbs.

By looking closely at the world, you'll realize that nature has solutions to a number of the world's most pressing problems. And while we have learned much from nature already, there are likely pearls of wisdom just waiting to be discovered.

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To learn more about Biomimicry, be sure to check out the Biomimicry Institute and watch Benyus' inspiring Ted Talk on the subject.