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Innovation in. Action. Tools for Innovation: Biomimicry. Jonathan Weaver & Darrell Kleinke University of Detroit Mercy ME Department & IIA . References. As noted within. What is the world’s tallest skyscraper? .

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Tools for Innovation: Biomimicry

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Tools for innovation biomimicry




Tools for Innovation:Biomimicry

Jonathan Weaver & Darrell Kleinke

University of Detroit Mercy ME Department & IIA



As noted within

Tools for innovation biomimicry

What is the world’s tallest skyscraper?

… and what does a flower have to do with it?

Source: on 20091206



“Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain.”

Leonardo DaVinci

Biomimicry or bionics biomimetics or biognosis

Biomimicry (or Bionics, Biomimetics, or Biognosis)

“Life has been performing design experiments on Earth’s R&D lab for 3.8 billion years. What’s flourishing on the planet today are the best ideas---those that perform well in context, while economizing on energy and materials. Whatever your company’s design challenge, the odds are high that one or more of the world’s 30 million creatures has not only faced the same challenge, but has evolved effective strategies to solve it.”


Nature s laws strategies and principles

Nature’s Laws, Strategies, and Principles

  • Nature runs on sunlight

  • Nature uses only the energy it needs

  • Nature fits form to function

  • Nature recycles everything

  • Nature rewards cooperation

  • Nature banks on diversity

  • Nature demands local expertise

  • Nature curbs excesses from within

  • Nature taps the power of limits

Source: Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus

Tools for innovation biomimicry


Tools for innovation biomimicry


Termite thermal regulation

Termite Thermal Regulation

  • Incredible ability of termites to maintain virtually constant temperature and humidity in their Sub-Saharan Africa despite outside temperature variation from 3 °C to 42 °C

  • Project TERMES (Termite Emulation of Regulatory Mound Environments by Simulation) scanned a termite mound, created 3-D images of the mound structure and provided the first ever glimpse of construction that may likely change the way we build our own buildings

  • The Eastgate Centre, a mid-rise office complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, stays cool without air conditioning and uses only 10% of the energy of a conventional building its size


Taiwan tower

Taiwan Tower

  • Inspired by trees, leaves and other Taiwanese symbols

  • It has many eco-friendly features, such as collecting rain water and purifying it for its own use, a small footprint, and geothermal heating/cooling


Lizard inspired sandbot

Lizard Inspired Sandbot

  • Sand is slippery and can act as a fluid or a solid and accurate models of the behavior of sand have yet to be developed

  • Georgia Tech is studying how the zebra-tailed lizard runs across the desert to build robots that can traverse any type of terrain – including sand

Source: (20091105)

Echolocating cane

Echolocating Cane

  • U Leeds (in the UK) modeled the echolocation technique used by bats

  • They adapted their results to develop a cane for the visually impaired

  • The UltraCane is manufactured, marketed and sold by Sound Foresight Ltd.


Cold water detergents

Cold Water Detergents

  • The Antarctic icefish digests oils (in its prey) in extreme cold

  • That process offers lessons and inspirations for cold water detergents

    Fast Company, November 2009


Biomimicry water mixer example

Biomimicry – Water Mixer Example

  • Water agencies must constantly mix water to prevent stagnation

  • The Calla Lilly’s centripetal spirals provide an ideal flow of liquid

  • The mixer shown runs with a fraction of the power required for a conventional mixer


Butterfly wing inspires glare proof displays

Butterfly Wing Inspires Glare-Proof Displays

  • Early cell phone displaces were difficult to read in bright light conditions

  • Nanoscalestructures on the Blue Morpho butterfly wing cause incoming light waves to interfere with one another, reflecting only specific wavelengths of brilliant color


Butterfly wing inspires glare proof displays1

Butterfly Wing Inspires Glare-Proof Displays

The iMod display flashes brilliant colors while drawing only a fraction of the electricity required to power a typical liquid crystal display


Shark inspires hydropower system

Shark Inspires Hydropower System,


Self cleaning paint

Self Cleaning Paint

The ‘Lotus Effect’ of how lotus leaves bead water to remain clean has inspired a new generation of self-cleaning paints




  • Front end modeled after kingfisher’s beak to minimize tunnel entry/exit shockwave

  • Pantograph supports have serrations modeled after owl plumage to reduce wind noise

Source: Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, J. Benyus, Perrenial NY, 2002

Elephant trunk inspires robotic arm

Elephant Trunk Inspires Robotic Arm

  • The 0.75 m long Bionic Handling Assistant uses 13 actuators providing 11 degrees of freedom

  • The design of the flexible gripper is modeled after fish tails

Source: /200 /Issue /Article/True/86387

Venus flytrap inspires new way to trap nuclear waste

Venus Flytrap Inspires New Way to Trap Nuclear Waste

  • The structure has "windows" measuring 0.8 nanometers by 0.3 nanometres - just large enough for caesium ions to squeeze through

  • Once inside, caesium bonds with sulphide ions triggering closing of the window


Eiffel tower

Eiffel Tower

  • Lattice structure inspired by the orderly latticework of tiny ridges in the thighbone

  • Such bone-inspired latticework has become an architectural norm today


Uk armed forces clothing inspired by pine cones

UK Armed Forces Clothing Inspired by Pine Cones

  • It is difficult to correctly dress for the weather and layers can be cumbersome

  • UK researchers are investigating clothing made of materials that react to temperature and moisture, much like pine cones


Electric eels inspire possibly new battery technology

Electric Eels Inspire Possibly New Battery Technology

An experiment at a Japanese aquarium that used eels to light Christmas lights inspired NIST researchers to build artificial cells that copy the eel’s electric generation capability


Nature s hammer inspires ice ax

Nature’s Hammer Inspires Ice Ax


Fishbone audio sensor

Fishbone Audio Sensor

  • Tokyo Electron has created the fishbone sensor, a new type of audio sensor using the inner working of the human ear as a model

  • Each of the 24 cantilevers of the fishbone sensor works like a human ear membrane and picks up individual frequencies


Honeycomb inspired tire


UW-Madison and a Wausau, Wis., company have come up with a 37-inch, bullet and bomb-proof Humvee tire based on a polymeric web so cool looking there's no need for hub caps

Honeycomb Inspired Tire

A material based on sharkskin stops bacterial breakouts

A Material Based on Sharkskin Stops Bacterial Breakouts

  • Similar to the texture of sharkskin, Sharklet’s three-micrometer-wide diamond-shaped pattern prevents bacteria from taking root

  • Scientists have printed that pattern on an adhesive film that will repel bacteria pathogens from hospitals and public restrooms


Toyota working on night vision system inspired by dung beetles

Toyota Working on Night Vision System Inspired by Dung Beetles

Toyota engineers have developed camera software which takes inspiration from nocturnal dung beetles, bees and moths that can see across a remarkable range of color, brightness and shadow


Robo grasshopper

Robo Grasshopper

  • Small robots have a tough time on rocky terrain

  • Swiss engineers noticed grasshoppers and locusts can quickly cover up to three feet of uneven ground in a single hop

  • They built a batch of microbots that can propel themselves eight feet into the air


Dew bank

Dew Bank

  • The onymacrisunguicularis is a desert-dwelling insect that creates dewdrops using its body and then drinks them

  • The "Dew Bank" was inspired by this habit providing convenience and an easy water supply for desert residents.


New medicine inspired by frog skin

New Medicine Inspired by Frog Skin

  • U Penn scientists have developed a potent compound that mimics molecules in frog skin that stab bacteria to death

  • Bacteria are adapting to conventional antibiotics by modifying their receptors to prevent the antibiotic from taking hold

  • Countering this new drug would require the bacteria to fully restructure its membrane

    “A Big Leap for Antibiotics,” Popular Science Magazine, January 2008.

Sponges inspire new battery technology

Sponges Inspire New Battery Technology

  • Mimicing sponges, Rice researchers found a way of using silicon to boost the capacity of lithium-ion batteries by a factor of 10

  • The discovery could increase the performance of the batteries in everything from laptops to electric vehicles


Mercedes benz bionic concept vehicle

Mercedes-Benz Bionic Concept Vehicle

Modeled after the boxfish, it has one of the lowest Cd’s ever tested (0.19 for the concept car)


Ford example

Ford Example

In 2005, Ford's Volvo Division developed an anti-collision system based on the way locusts swarm without crashing into one another


Regen energy

Regen Energy


Other designs inspired by nature

Other Designs Inspired by Nature

  • Airplanes modeled after birds (wing and body shapes, falcon beak)

  • Morphing airplane wings that change shape according to the speed and length of a flight, inspired by birds that have differently-shaped wings depending on how fast they fly

  • Fish-inspired scales that easily slide over each other to enable the morphing airplane wings

  • Boat hulls designed after the shapes of fish

  • Torpedoes that swim like tuna

  • Solar panels that mimic natural photosynthesis


Other designs inspired by nature1

Other Designs Inspired by Nature

  • Submarine and boats hull material that imitates dolphin and shark skin membranes

  • Radar and sonar navigation technology and medical imaging inspired by the echolocation abilities of bats

  • Swimsuit, triathlon and bobsled clothing fabric made with woven ribbing and texture to reduce drag while maintaining movement, mimics shark’s skin

  • Probes for sampling liquids of various viscosities modeled after a butterfly’s proboscis

How to think like a biomimic

How to Think Like a Biomimic

  • Determine what you want to “do” (not “make”)

  • Identify key functions/purpose

  • Look to see how nature achieves those functions

  • Go observe nature’s genius and conduct research or talk to experts to find patterns or principles which may work for your problem

  • Brainstorm , design and converse

  • Refine the design

Source: Biomimicry Guild, La Cusinga, Costa Rica

Design Workshop, 2007

The biomimicry guild s suggested process

The Biomimicry Guild’s Suggested Process

The Guild suggests a five step spiral development process:

  • This is further detailed on the next slide

Source: Biomimicry Newsletter, Volume 4, Issue 1, February, 2006

Biomimicry pinterest site

BiomimicryPinterest Site

Biomimicry taxonomy

Biomimicry Taxonomy

A nice taxonomy is available at (may have moved!):

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