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On this special edition of Nature League, Brit explores nature in the context of engineering by describing and displaying some examples of high tech and everyday biomimicry.

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Welcome back to Nature League!

This month has been all about evolution and speciation. However, it’s a special month with 5 Thursdays, and that means it’s time for our special segment called “Nature+”! “Nature+” is a segment where we investigate nature in the context of something else.

For this month’s “Nature+” segment, we’re going to explore Nature plus engineering. Basically, discovering how engineering and design takes some pointers from life on Earth. [CHEERY INTRO THEME]. Using nature to inspire designs is an engineering discipline called “biomimicry”.

Like other feats of engineering and design, most biomimicry projects are directed at solving problems using innovation. It turns out that some of the coolest projects underway were inspired by designs found in other species. Low-pain mosquito needles.

There are a lot of people who steer clear of the doctor’s office because of the idea of needles. Getting your blood drawn typically, well, hurts. However, mosquito bites, which pretty much do the same thing, are initially pretty painless, and sometimes unnoticeable.

That’s because they use a special design that reduces the surface area of the point of impact. Scientists are now working on incorporating this design into medical needles to reduce pain. Sharkskin antibiotics.

Antibacterial resistance poses one of the biggest public health risks of the 21st century. A lot of this resistance comes from overuse of antibiotic agents that kill bacteria. So instead of trying to kill microorganisms… what if we just created surfaces where they don’t like to grow?

A product called Sharklet™ is an example of shark skin biomimicry. This engineered surface works similarly to the dermal denticles of shark skin, and provide an unsuitable environment for bacteria. Gecko foot adhesives.

This is an adhesive developed at Kiel University in collaboration with the company Gottlieb. Binder GmbH & Co. KG.

The inspiration came from looking at gecko feet and leaf beetles. And by looking, I mean looking really closely. Gecko®-Tape has microscopic elements that allow it to stick to wet and slippery surfaces, and it doesn’t leave any residue behind.

Solar panels. The idea of turning light energy into usable energy isn’t exactly new to life on Earth. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants have been doing this for a long time.

Not only do solar panels mimic this incredible process, but some can actually follow the sun the same way that plants do, in a process called phototaxis. The Bullet Train. Transportation is a major area of engineering innovations.

One of the most famous transportation biomimicry examples comes from the kingfisher bird. When engineers in Japan were designing high speed bullet trains, they ran into issues with noise. Kingfishers move from the air into the water almost seamlessly, and the designs of their beaks inspired the less noisy, and more energy efficient, Shinkansen Bullet Train.

While most of the biomimicry products we’ve discussed so far are either still in development or not really everyday items, there are all kinds of things we encounter every day that use designs that have been around much longer than humans. While some of these designs weren’t inspired by life on Earth, life on Earth also uses them. Sort of like co-evolution, we find the designs of everyday items in many species on Earth.

To name a few, I figure there’s no better place than inside a home. Thanks for watching this special Nature + segment of Nature League. Make sure to come back next week for a Lesson Plan on our brand new theme: plants.