Mother Nature Provides Design for New Products and Technologies
Scientists are examining all forms of life closely. Mammals, reptiles, fish, bird, amphibians, insects and just about any living creature because each form of life offers remarkable features just waiting to be studied by those in nanotechnology and bioengineering.
Biomimicry is actually nothing new. The helicoper's cockpit and body looks strikingly similar to the head, thorax, and abdomen of a dragonfly.
Nature is filled with creatures that display remarkable traits. The thorny devil is a lizard that lives in the desert but it doesn't drink water. It sucks moisture out of the air using micro-capillaries on its skin.
From this unusual ability, scientists want to learn how to extract water from air so that in aird areas in the world, water can be obtained for human consumption.
A practical application might even be learned from the humble sandcastle worm. It produces a glue that sets and sticks even under water, which it uses to build a shelter out of sand and seashell fragments. Scientists hope to produce just such an adhesive to heal broken bones in humans.
What scientists learn from animals is applicable even in sports, where a body suit for competitive swimmers called Fastskin was developed by Speedo. This material is made with microscopic ridges and grooves to mimic shark skin to reduce drag.
Bharat Bhushan, director of Ohio Stater University's Nano-probe Laboratory for Bio- and Nanotechnology and Biomimetics studied the high-tech, full-body swimsuits and he found that the ridges help reduce the drag of turbulent water on a swimmer's body by as much as 30 percent. No wonder sharks swim like launched torpedoes.
The study of animals in order to improve the quality of our lives is filled with potential, but before we can fully tap into what mother nature gives us in terms of funcional designs, we might run out of time as ever more species of life become extinct or endangered.Continued on the next page