Biomimicry’s path to success in the 20th centuryThe real focus on developing bio-inspired technology began in the 1950s. Numerous products, applications and methods that have been designed through the transfer of natural phenomena are in use today.
George de Mestral developed and patented Velcro in 1955 by recreating the adhesive properties of the burdock plant for instance. Velcro is meanwhile a common household item the world over. The Lotus effect used by self-cleaning surfaces is popular as well. Paints, glassware and textiles are available with specific micro and nanostructures that transmit a clean drip off and protect against dirt. Another innovation is Gecko-Tape® which adheres to all types of smooth surfaces without glue and instead relies on a technology that mimics gecko feet with thousands of tiny hair structures.
Apart from every day products, the building and construction industry can also benefit from nature templates. Specific surface structures that mimic shark skin can protect ships from fouling, or improve aircraft aerodynamics, leading to significant fuel savings. Lightweight constructions such as the Bird Nest, Beijing’s national Olympic stadium, feature innovative designs, high stability and minimal material consumption.
Medicine is another suitable area for biomimicry. More than 300,000 people around the world wear the Cochlea implant, a hearing device developed as far back as 1970 that imitates the natural human hearing process. Other promising applications include mussel-inspired wound adhesives or micro endoscope robots with frog feet that can adhere to soggy mucous membranes during keyhole surgery. Research is being carried out in many directions in the area of medicine.