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14 Smart Inventions Inspired by Nature: Biomimicry

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

Photographs by Steve Irvine; Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis

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A Paper House for Wasps

Biomimicry is "innovation inspired by nature," according to Benyus. Biomimics — engineers, architects and other innovators — are "nature’s apprentices," she said in a 2009 TED talk. They are driven by the question, "what if every time I started to invent something I asked, ‘How would nature solve this?’"

Benyus sees examples of human inventions paralleling nature virtually everywhere. The tissue that wasps make their nests from resemble "fine Italian endpapers." She told the TED audience of a time she let one grow on her property: "It was so beautifully done. It was so architectural. It was so precise."

Benyus's consultancy, Biomimicry 3.8, helps companies by searching scientific literature and assembling what she calls "amoeba through zebra" reports that, distilled, offer relevant natural design principles that engineers can work with. The company, a public benefit corporation, is beginning to expand its services beyond design research into engineering and intellectual-property development for corporate clients.

A Dumb Question about biomimicry.

Read more Energy & Sustainability news.