Inspired by Nature

An engineer designed the hook-and-loop fastener after a walk with his dog.

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Have you ever wondered where ideas come from when making a new design? People get their ideas from many different places. Sometimes they are copying something they have seen in nature. This is called biomimicry. Bios means “life” and mimesis means “imitate.” Scientists can solve problems by looking at nature. Nature has designs that work well and are efficient. Designing and making products that are more sustainable and efficient means that people use less energy. Using less energy has a smaller impact on Earth’s natural resources.

Wind turbines and whales?

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Take a careful look at the shapes in both photos. What do you notice? The humpback whale is huge and heavy, yet it can easily move through the water. Using the same shape as a fin, the blades of a wind turbine move through the air and generate energy. The large blades can move efficiently through the air and generate the maximum amount of energy. Researchers are now testing blades that have “bumps” like the humpback whale. They are finding that the blades generate even more power! 

Engineers who watch nature can have fast ideas.

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Now, what do you see? How could this bird affect the way a train was designed? In Japan, they have very fast trains. The trains were causing a booming sound when they went through tunnels. The sound was waking people up who lived nearby. It was also bothering wildlife. After watching the kingfisher bird, the engineers were inspired by the shape of its beak and head. They redesigned the train and there are no more loud booms. It is also more energy-efficient!  

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What Do You Think? What can scientists learn from how a butterfly reflects light?

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