Nature can show us how to move forward!

The exploration of nature and its processes to yield innovative solutions to complex problems is an interesting and novel approach that companies are starting to use as another way to “think outside the box” to identify business opportunities.

As those of you who follow my articles know, I’m very intrigued with the idea of using nature as a guide to providing technological insights. My company is currently

working with biomimicry organizations in San Diego to help companies worldwide drive the adoption of nature-inspired innovation approaches and I’m excited about it.

I’ve given some examples over the last year of the contributions of biomimicry to innovation: the development of Velcro from the hooks on plant burrs, research into “artificial leafs” for energy production, the construction of energy-efficient buildings based on the design of termite mounds, looking at insects for clues on how to build miniature flying drones, and using the shapes provided to us from the fins of humpback whales to improve the efficiency of wind turbines.

The list grows every day.

There is a system under development that mimics the back-and-forth motion of underwater plant life for generating electric power. It is called bioWave and gets its inspiration from the motion of underwater coral and kelp.

In a school of fish, studies are showing that each fish utilizes the motion of its neighbor to increase efficiency. Wind farm engineers are looking at inspiration from these fish formations to see how to redesign and increase the efficiency of their turbines.

Conventional wind farms have to space the turbines appropriately so that the turbulence generated from each doesn’t interfere with the operation of the surrounding ones. By designing wind turbines with vertical rotation axes rather than horizontal, they can take energy from many directions and utilize, rather than waste, some of the random wind motion generated by others.

And while we are on the subject of wind farms, Netherlands architects are developing the concept of the “Power Flower” — a futuristic wind turbine that even looks somewhat like a tree. Perhaps if wind turbines weren’t so aesthetically objectionable, we might want to have more local, even personal ones.

The outlook is for bioinspiration looks quite promising and it is quite an exciting area to be involved in. Over the next decade, experts predict it will have a huge effect upon new products and economic output, accounting for billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs.

With so many unique and wonderfully made species of plants, insects and animals to inspire future innovations, pioneers in biomimicry are delivering solutions.

Nanotechnology, adhesives, sports, consumer goods, alternative energy, manufacturing, medicine, transportation and many other industries and markets are seeing progress.

We are seeing more examples every day. Who knows where else ideas from nature will inspire us? As the biomimicry author Janine Benyus says, we are “surrounded by genius.”

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