14 Smart Inventions Inspired by Nature: Biomimicry

By Amelia Hennighausen and Eric Roston - 2013-08-19T12:01:13Z

Photographs by Henrik Sorensen; Tony Law/Redux

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When China hosted the Beijing Olympics in 2008, it wowed the world with architectural feats, chief among them the swimming center, dubbed the Watercube. The Watercube's design is based on the structure of soap bubbles, giving it a natural feel and earthquake resistance.

The walls of the rectangular facility are made of large bubbles, both in form and function. Each bubble is a pillow of rugged plastic. The bubbles, which are just 0.008 inch thick, trap hot air from the sun that's then circulated to heat the pools. The plastic is resistant to damage from sunlight, weather and even dust. It's also easy to clean. When it rains, grime from Beijing's thick smog is swept away.

For purists, the watercube doesn’t qualify as biomimicry. Bubbles — felicitous interactions of gas and liquid — are a physical, not biological, phenomenon.

A Dumb Question about biomimicry.

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