How Nature Inspires Technology

There are thousands of examples of how nature has guided technological development throughout human history.  No-one did more to pioneer this approach than the great Leonardo himself who used detailed studies of nature, anatomy and biology to invent incredible machines such as his “Mechanical Dragonfly”, “Great Kite”, “Flying Machine” or “Glider”.

Although some 500 years have passed since Leonardo’s early work it seems that it is only in the last few decades that we have truly awakened to the genius of nature and we are only now beginning to unlock nature’s secrets that have led to the development of ultra-strong threads, non-stick coatings, self-repairing coverings and many other exciting materials.

Why then did it take so long to apply nature’s designs to trains (Japan’s high-speed trains now have long, beak-like noses modelled on a kingfishers beak)? Apparently, this massive beak-through helps them exit quietly out of tunnels, while simultaneously making them 10% faster and 15% more fuel-efficient than their predecessors.  So after millions of years of evolution mother nature apparently got some things right!

Personally I like the idea of Velcro being inspired by burrs of a Baldock plant. Who hasn’t walked through long grass and experienced their effectiveness at sticking to socks?

One elusive area is that of replicating the ability to walk, which presents incredible bio-mechanical complexities. BigDog (see the great video below) is a dynamically stable robot is capable of traversing incredibly challenging terrain. So closely does it match the movements of our faithful friend that there was a collective intake of breath as BigDog recovers its balance after being kicked – we felt sympathy for it!

If this technology was combined with the kind of artificial intelligence referred to in my previous post then Dr Who’s Cyborg would have appeared to have been much more of a threat and we would not have scoffed so much during those Saturday afternoon shows!

Warley Design offers mechanical design, engineering and product development services to a broad range of industries. If you have a development programme that we can help you with please contact us.


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