What is Biomimetics?
Biomimetics, also known as bionics, biognosis, or biomimicry, is the use and implementation of concepts and principles from nature to creating new materials, devices and systems. This adaptation of methods and systems found in nature into synthetic constructs is desirable because evolutionary pressure typically forces natural systems to become highly optimized and efficient. Nature provides a database of several solutions that already work and thus serve as models of inspiration for synthetic paradigms.
Biomimetics, in fact, has its origins back in the times when the Wright brothers modeled their planes on the structure of bird wings; when Joseph Paxton used the design of a lily pad to structure the Crystal Palace and when Leonardo da Vinci was working on his flying machines and ships. However the field was only given its official name and definition by Jack Steele of the U.S. Force in the 1960ís.
Biomimmicry only recently begun to reach is full potential since the invention of Velcro, the biomimetic-equivalent of hooks in natural burrs created by George de Mestral in 1948. Since then, many facets have evolved and can be broadly categorized under two main topics:
∑ Mimicking mechanisms found in nature
e.g. water-proof glue developed with parallel mechanisms found in the study of adhesives produced by mollusks.
∑ Utilizing or incorporating nature itself into novel devices
e.g. new strong but light materials have come from studying the structure of bone, Velcro.
Confluence of Nanotechnology and Biomimetics
Most of the applications developed in the past have been created on the macromolecular level. Only recently has Biomimetics begun to approach the micro and sub-micro molecular level of matter. At the turn of the century, however, the interests of scientists and researchers have shifted towards thinking of matter at the atomic level hence the field Nanotechnology.
What is Nanotechnology?
It is the ability to manipulate atoms at the atomic level ranging from one to several nanometers in order to understand, create and use material structures, devices and systems with fundamentally new properties and functions resulting form their small structure.
All biological systems have their most basic properties and functions defined at the nanoscale from their first level of organization. The overall aim of nanotechnology in biological systems then is to hierarchically assemble molecules into objects and vice versa, using bonds that require low energy consumption. Nanotechnology provides tools and platforms for the investigation and transformation of biological systems, and biology serves as the source of inspiration for creating new devices and systems integrated from the nanoscale under the two facets already outlined above.
It is important to note that biological models cannot be emulated exactly as they operate on a much smaller time-scale than usually necessary in industry and also require water while industrial processes work in various other media.