Emily Ma, Journalist/Editor

Literally “imitation of the living”, biomimicry is the science of taking characteristics of nature, typically from animals, and using them to create or improve human inventions. In the process of biomimicry, scientists observe and learn from the ways that plants and animals solve problems, and apply their techniques to human life. The source of inspiration can be anything from communication methods to body structure and animal habitats. Some inventions created through biomimicry include Japan’s bullet train, the Velcro®, and bird-safe glass.
Perhaps the most well known example of biomimicry is the Shinkansen bullet train. The original design of the train, while incredibly fast, was also incredibly loud. The high speeds caused atmospheric pressure to build up in front of the train, and when exiting tunnels, this pressure buildup would cause a tunnel boom. A tunnel boom is a phenomenon similar to the sonic boom created by an airplane, and the constant noise greatly disturbed nearby residents. Due to this, engineers were tasked with creating a quieter train while sustaining its speed. They looked to nature for a solution. After studying the flight patterns of various birds, engineers created train nose designs modeled after bird beaks and tested their effectiveness. Finally, they settled on the design based on the kingfisher. The kingfisher is a waterbird that hunts its prey by diving into the water with barely a splash. Its long, sharp beak allows the bird to seamlessly enter the water. After testing, the Shinkansen bullet train was reinstated with its new nose. The train was now far quieter and much better. It was also 10 percent faster and used 15 percent less electricity.
Another example of biomimicry is the Velcro®. The Velcro® was invented in 1941 by engineer and entrepreneur George de Mestral, whose curiosity of burrs brought him to creating this revolutionary product. On a hunting trip, George de Mestral found himself and his dog covered in the burrs of the burdock plant. George de Mestral then discovered that the prickly balls could be put on and taken off easily, and decided to figure out why. Upon investigation, he realized that burrs were covered in miniscule hooks, which looped onto fabric and fur, securing the burrs in place. George de Mestral then applied this concept to create Velcros®, which consist of one patch of small hooks that grasps onto an opposite fuzzy patch. Today, Velcro® is used to replace shoelaces, secure charging cords, hang picture frames, and more.
The final example of biomimicry is Ornilux Mikado® bird-safe spider glass, which was recently created by the German company Arnold Glass. They created it to decrease the frequency of birds crashing into windows. The engineers were inspired by the Orb-weaver spider, whose webs reflect UV light, alerting birds of its presence and preventing them from crashing. Ideas were formed to create a window glass that could repel birds in the same way. After several years of designing and testing, Ornilux® coating was able to use reflected UV light to alert birds of the window’s presence. This glass coating appears to birds as a criss-crossing on the surface, yet is invisible to the human eye. During testing, the Ornilux Mikado® coating was found to reduce bird crashes by approximately 66%, and is currently in use in many places around the world.
Biomimicry is a still-developing field of science with enormous potential, and the world awaits its many contributions to come.