Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Biomimetics Draws from Nature’s Genius

By Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering

Nature is inspiring simple solutions to complex engineering problems.

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In the days of Industry 1.0, nature was there to be tamed and conquered. It was external to humanity and reducible to an inexhaustible source of profit.

English poet William Blake’s “dark satanic mills”, which characterised the Industrial Revolution, were imposed on the landscape and blighted the environment. Waste was simply dumped into rivers and streams. Burning sea coal produced choking smoke to the extent that backed-up chimneys suffocated people in their beds.

In the era of Industry 4.0, we are developing a much healthier understanding of humanity’s relationship with nature. We are part of nature: we live in it, we affect it. Importantly, we can learn from it.

In recent years, a growing number of researchers have turned to finding solutions in nature to problems in human society, generating a discipline known as biomimetics. As the Biomimicry Institute puts it: “The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.”

Every dog owner is familiar with their pet returning from the bushes covered in burrs. When researchers asked themselves why the burrs were sticking, they discovered that their spines were coated with minute...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.