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FOREST SHORTCUT TO INNOVATION

Seeking inspiration? WELCOME!

It took 3.8 billion years of evolution for living organisms around us to become as they are. On that long way they have been solving crucial issues of life and death, reproduction, adaptation and occupying new niches. Survived only successful ones.  

Biomimetics (or biomimicry) is about nature inspired design, the transfer of ideas from biology to technology.

Along this trail you can find several info stands, each describing some natural phenomenon that has been or can be a prototype for an innovation. The story of each stand continues with a video presenting applications of these ideas into technology or science. 

WHY do we need biomimetics? – Watch the video to find out.

 
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BEES

HOW do thousands of bees coordinate the food search?

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Ability of social animals to decentralized self-organizing behavior is known as swarm intelligence. Following simple interaction rules individual agents form complex intelligent behavior on the population level. Bees foraging behavior, first documented by Aristotle, is one of the examples of swarm intelligence.

A bee colony is divided into scout bees and foragers. Scout bees randomly search flowers around the hive. When they find a food source, they return to the hive and tell foragers about it by means of the waggle dance. Its angle shows the direction, length indicates the distance and waggle amplitude defines the abundance of the food. After harvesting foragers can also perform the waggle dance increasing the colony foraging efficiency.

How is the wisdom of bees used in industry and science? – Watch the video to find out.

 
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PINE CONE

Do you see a pine cone around? 

Is it close or open? WHY?

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Scales of pine cones are self-opening when it is dry and closing otherwise. The cells are dead, so the mechanism is passive, no energy is needed to perform it, the trick is in its structure. The scale functions as a bilayer with different orientation of cellulose microfibrils.

“In sclerids, the microfibrils are wound around the cell (high winding angle) allowing it to elongate when damp. Fibres have the microfibrils orientated along the cell (low winding angle) which resists elongation.
The ovuliferous scale therefore functions as a bilayer similar to a bimetallic strip, but responding to humidity instead of heat.”

Dawson et.al (1997). How pine cones open. Nature.

How can we use it? – Watch the video to find out.

 
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SPIDER WEB

HOW tough should spider silk be to catch and keep preys? HOW do spiders avoid bird collision?

Spider silk is known to be as strong as steel. Its tensile strength is about 1,3 GPa (steel 0,5-2 GPa), while it is six times less dense than steel. If a spider made a silk strand around the Earth, it would weight just about 500 grams. In addition, spider silk is very stretchy, some types of it can be stretched five times of their relaxed length without breaking. Due to the combination of strength and ductility spider silks are very tough and equivalent to synthetic fibers like Kevlar.

Orb-web spiders need to locate their webs in open space ensuring high flow of preys. But it also creates a risk of bird collision. To avoid that spiders invented UV-reflective silk, so the spider web becomes visible for birds (as well as butterflies and honeybees), but stays transparent for flies and other preys.

CAN spider silk replace synthetic fibers? 

WHAT else can be learnt from spiders? – Watch the video to find out.

 
 

OWL

RWTH Aachen University, Department for Zoology and Animal Physiology http://www.bio2.rwth-aachen.de/index.php?id=83

RWTH Aachen University, Department for Zoology and Animal Physiology http://www.bio2.rwth-aachen.de/index.php?id=83

Have you seen an owl?
Have you ever heard its fly?

Owls hunt at night time. Being quiet allows them to approach preys unnoticeable and is crucial for successful hunting.

Generally, the noise of bird flight comes from turbulences of the air rushing through the clapping wings. Owls have different feather design to reduce the sound.

The front feather of the wing has hooked structures breaking up the air flow (see anterior border). Moreover, each feather is fringed along the trailing edge, further damping the noise (see posterior border). This allows wings silently slide through the air.

 

WHY is the secret of the silent flight useful?
– Watch the video to find out.

 
 
 

MOSQUITO

Do you like MOSQUITOS?

Is it itchy after they bite you?

But is the bite itself painful?

A.© 2015 Choo, Buss, Tan and Leal (distribution under CC BY). Front Physiol. 2015; 6: 306. Published online 2015 Oct 29. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2015.00306[/caption]  B.Own drawing

A.© 2015 Choo, Buss, Tan and Leal (distribution under CC BY). Front Physiol. 2015; 6: 306. Published online 2015 Oct 29. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2015.00306[/caption]

B.Own drawing

Mosquito’s mouth or proboscis is not just one needle. Actually, it contains six needles or stylets, each performing different functions while biting. Mosquito penetrates into the skin not by piercing it, but by sawing it. First, it uses two outer stylets, maxillae, with sharp teeth to saw through the skin. Then holding the tissue apart with mandibles, it pierces a vessel and sucks the blood out of it with the feeding needle. The last needle, hypopharynx, injects anti-coagulant into our blood to keep it flowing.

Researchers studied mosquito’s proboscis (Kong & Wu, 2010) found out that the two maxillas work as variable frequency microsaw. This enables mosquito to penetrate the human skin with very low force (average of 16.5 μN).

HOW it can be useful? – Watch the video to find out.

 
 

STRUCTURAL COLORATION

Have you noticed magnificent green-blue color of a male duck head? What is its secret?

Usually different colors appear from pigments that reflect light waves of particular length (color) and absorb all the others. However, colors can be produced from such optical phenomena as light interference and diffraction. A simple example is thin film interference that can be observed in soap bubbles. Resulting color is iridescent, it depends on the thickness and refractive index of the film, as well as the angle of light falling or observing.

In nature structural color can be found in many birds, including magpies and peacocks, some butterflies and beetles, and even berries (the marble berry).

Apart from thin films, the natural world uses various mechanisms to play with light, like diffraction gratings, selective mirrors, photonic crystals, crystal fibres and deformed matrices. 

What industries can benefit from structural coloration? – Watch the video to find out.

 
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SYMBIOSIS

Can you see some dry grayish plants on trees and stones around you? They are not plants…

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It is lichens. Lichens are algae and fungi living together in symbiotic relationship and forming one composite organism. Fungi provide support for algae cells and protect them from drying out. Whereas algae photosynthesize and feed fungi. Together they obtain new properties as a living organism and occupy new niches, like surfaces of stones and trees.

Another example of symbiosis that grows in Finland is heath spotted orchid. When it is a small underground bulb, it only can grow in a symbiosis with fungi. However, when it becomes a mature flower with green photosynthesizing parts, it feeds the fungi back. Symbiotic relationships are also common among animals.

Any symbiosis inspired inventions? – Watch the video to find out.

 
 

LEAVES

Is it shady and cool in the forest even on a sunny day? WHY?

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Leaves evolved to sophisticated instruments of light capturing. Their disposition, called leaf mosaic, allows maximum exposure to direct sunlight with minimum loss of intervening space. Therefore, less light comes through tree crowns providing freshness in the shade of the forest.

Sunlight is used for photosynthesis taking place in tiny little green organelles called chloroplasts. They convert light, water and CO2 into sugars and, thus, are an important element of the plants feeding system. 

Worldwide fight with CO2 emissions incentivizes scientists to develop new ways of carbon capture. The ability of trees and other green plants to absorb CO2 has been attracting researchers’ attention in search for the solution. Ideas of artificial photosynthesis emerge, but their implementation is still on a conceptual stage.

WHAT else leaves can serve inspiration for? – Watch the video to find out.

 
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WOODPECKER

Have you heard a woodpecker drumming a tree?

Can you estimate the frequency?

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Woodpeckers drum hard wooden surface of trees with average frequency of 20 Hz (20 times per second). Nature equipped their head with a shock absorbing system to avoid brain damage.

  • Comparing to other birds woodpeckers have less space between the skull and the brain.
  • Special spongy bone at the frontal part of the skull damps the stress force.
  • So called hyoid bone that exceeds into tongue acts as a belt fastening the skull and redirecting the stress force into muscles.
  • The asymmetric structure of the beak (the upper part is longer) further reduces the impact of drumming on the head.

WHERE it might be useful?  – Watch the video to find out.