Biomimicry Goes Mainstream

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For the last decade, biomimicry has been championed by a determined few, most notably Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature, distinguished lecturer, and recipient of the 2009 Champion of the Earth award in Science & Technology from the United Nations Environmental Programme.

Books by Janine Benyus:

Recently, biomimicry has appeared in mainstream culture, as evidenced by the appearance of commercial products inspired by nature, articles highlighting biomimicry in the mainstream media, and incorporation of biomimicry principles in college curricula.

Recent biomimicry articles in the popular press include:

Sales of biomimicry-based products and architectural projects have generated over $1.5 billion in revenues in the span from 2005-2008Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.. Numerous commercial products inspired by nature have also been released:

  • The lotus flower has inspired paint that allows surfaces to self-clean with rain. Lotusan® PaintLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. available in 38 colors from StoCorp, has been applied to more than 300 million square feet of facade surfaces in the ten years since its launch in 1999.
  • The Fastskin® LZR RacerLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. swimsuit manufactured by Speedo is based on the shape and texture of shark skin; it was worn by 89 percent of all Olympic medal winners at the 2008 Beijing swimming competitions.
  • Pax fansLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. are based on common set of geometries repeatedly found in nature and known to reduce friction and drag (such as logarithmic spirals found in nautilus shells and fiddlehead ferns).
  • Pax uses these shapes as a starting place for engineering design and customization. Pax has a product called the Lilly Impeller, which is in use in municipal water tanks for circulating millions of gallons of drinking water with minimal energy in order to prevent stagnation that might otherwise require the addition of disinfection agents.
  • Qualcomm’s Mirasol® DisplaysLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. were inspired by the beautiful color of a butterfly’s shimmering wings or a peacock’s iridescent plumage. They are made of tiny mirrors that reflect ambient light only at specific wavelengths, and as such are powered by ambient light (mirasol displays actually get brighter outdoors). They also have extremely fast refresh rates and very low power consumption. In 2008 they received PC Magazine’s 25th Annual Technical Excellence Awards (in the Display category), which acknowledge the year's best and most innovative cutting-edge products in technology.
  • The Eastgate BuildingLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. — constructed in 1995 in Harare, Zimbabwe, was inspired by tower-like termite mounds found in Africa. The mid-rise building has no conventional air-conditioning or heating, yet stays regulated year-round with considerably less energy consumption. The building uses less than 10% of the energy of a conventional building its size, enabling rents for tenants 20 percent lower than surrounding buildings.

Push-and-pull features in the marketplace are increasing. Helping to propel problem solvers in the right direction, debuted recently as a public database of biological literature organized by design function to help with problem-solution matchmaking. Another mechanism helping to push biomimicry concepts to the forefront of our consciousness is the proliferation of biomimicry-focused disciplines among college research centers and in college curricula:

Complementing these activities are certain funding opportunities issued by the federal government, which draw the market in this direction (National Science Foundation solicitation PD 08-1632 “Control Systems” of 2008/2009 invited proposals in which “the program emphasis is on paradigm-shifting ideas for control strategies that may be inspired by nature”, and National Science Foundation solicitation PD 06-7623 “Biomaterials” of 2008/2009 invited proposals where “The materials and systems of interest include … biomimetic, bioinspired …”)