Five human technologies inspired by nature: from Velcro to racing cars

<span classe=Many of humanity’s innovations have been inspired by the natural world. Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYzNw–/ “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYzNw–/”

Nature has, over millions of years, evolved solutions to fit a variety of challenges. As the challenges facing humanity become more complex, we see that inspiration is increasingly drawn from nature.

Taking biological processes and applying them to technological and design problems is called bioinspiration. This is a rapidly growing field and our ability to copy nature is becoming more sophisticated. Here are five startling examples where nature has driven human innovation and, in some cases, could lead to even more exciting discoveries.

1. Navigation

Using echolocation, bats are able to fly in complete darkness. They emit sound and ultrasound waves, then monitor the timing and extent of these waves’ reflections to create three-dimensional spatial maps of their surroundings.

The sensors that identify obstacles when reversing in many modern cars are inspired by bat navigation. The direction and distance of an obstacle is calculated by emitting ultrasonic waves which reflect off objects in the path of a car.

<span classe=The concept of echolocation has been adopted by many technologies in modern life, provided Amin Al-Habaibeh, author.” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY4Ng–/ “/>

The concept of echolocation has been adopted by many technologies in modern life, provided Amin Al-Habaibeh, author.

Sensory navigation technologies have also been proposed to improve the safety of the visually impaired. Ultrasonic sensors installed on the human body would offer feedback based on the sound of a person’s surroundings. This would allow them to move more freely while eliminating the threat of obstacles.

2. Construction equipment

Woodpeckers strike the hard surface of trees to forage for food, build nests, and attract a mate. Construction tools, such as portable hydraulic and pneumatic hammers, mimic a woodpecker’s vibrating beak using a frequency roughly equivalent to a woodpecker’s hammering (20 to 25 Hz).

But the vibration from these power tools can harm construction workers’ hands. This can, in some cases, cause white finger vibration, a condition in which sufferers experience permanent numbness and pain in the hands and arms.

Research is now investigating how woodpeckers protect their brains from the impact of repeated drilling. One study found that woodpeckers have several impact-absorbing adaptations that other birds do not have.

Their skull is adapted to be hard and hard, and their tongue wraps around the back of the skull and anchors between their eyes. This protects a woodpecker’s brain by dampening the impact of the hammering and its vibrations.

Research like this is driving the design of shock absorbers and vibration control devices to protect users of such equipment. The same concept has also inspired innovations such as layered cushioning structures for building design.

3. Building design

Scallops are molluscs with a wavy, fan-shaped outer shell. The zig-zag shape of these undulations strengthens the shell structure, enabling it to withstand high pressure underwater.

The same process is used to increase the strength of a cardboard box, with corrugated paper material glued between the two outer cardboard layers. Introducing a corrugated surface significantly increases the strength of a material, in the same way that folding a piece of paper into a zig-zag shape enables it to support an additional load.

<span classe=A piece of paper folded in a zigzag shape could bear a heavy load. Amin Al-Habaibeh, author provided.” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU2MA–/>1

A piece of paper folded in a zigzag shape could bear a heavy load. Amin Al-Habaibeh, author provided.

The domed structure of a scallop shell also allows it to withstand significant loads. This structure is self-supporting as it distributes weight evenly throughout the dome shape, reducing the load to a single point. This improves the stability of the structure without the need to reinforce the steel beams and has inspired the design of many buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

4. Transport aerodynamics

Sharks have two dorsal fins which provide several aerodynamic advantages. They stabilize the shark from rolling over, while their airfoil shape creates an area of ​​low turbulence behind them and thus increases the efficiency of the shark’s forward movement.

Shark fins have been replicated in motorized transport. For example, racing cars use flaps both to reduce turbulence when traveling at high speed and to improve cornering stability.

Many road cars now have a small “shark fin” installed on the roof, which is used to supplement the radio antenna. This reduces resistance compared to the traditional pole antenna.

<span classe=Shark fin antenna in a modern car. Amin Al Habaibeh. Author provided.” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTUzOQ–/″8fbe8edc/>da8fbe8edc/>

Shark fin antenna in a modern car. Amin Al Habaibeh. Author provided.

We also took inspiration from nature to increase the efficiency of airplane flight. An owl’s wings act as a suspension system; by changing the position, shape and angle of their wings, they are able to reduce the effect of turbulence during flight. And research into the flight of owls could open the door to turbulence-free air travel in the future.

5. Velcro

The hook and loop fastening mechanism of Velcro was inspired by the ability of burdock plant burrs to attach themselves to human clothing.

Plants use burrs to attach seed pods to passing animals and people, in order to disperse the seeds over larger areas. The cutters have small hooks that interlock with the small rings made of soft material.

Velcro replicates this by using a hook lined strip along with a strip of fabric. When pressed together, the hooks engage the rings and secure each other.

<span classe=Hook and Loop structure under the microscope. Amin Al-Habaibeh, author provided.” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTM5MQ–/>47fb7d53/>

Hook and Loop structure under the microscope. Amin Al-Habaibeh, author provided.

Velcro is used in a variety of products around the world. According to NASA, it was used in space during the Apollo missions from 1961 to 1972 to secure equipment in place in zero gravity.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Amin Al-Habaibeh does not work for, consult with, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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