Sometimes nature can be described as the ‘mother of invention’ as so many of our ideas have come from it. Plants, animals and even the environment in general have done for millenia what we have just begun to learn or are still waiting to achieve. The following are a few examples of ideas that we have borrowed from nature and make up our world today.
1. Kingfisher inspired bullet train: The Japanese bullet train during its initial designs created a great amount of noise due to the air pressure it built. In the 1990s, engineer Eji Nakatsu, who was an avid bird watcher noticed that Kingfisher birds dived into water with very little splashback and proceeded to design the train’s nose based on the bird’s beak. This resulted in not only reduced train noise but made it more aerodynamic and faster.
2. Beehive inspired electricity grid: Bees instinctively sense what jobs need doing and get onto it based on what they are doing in a hive, where they are and what others are doing around them. This logic was used by Regen Energy in the US to improve energy grids. The company used local controllers to communicate wirelessly with each other and direct power to where it needs to go on their own.
3. Termite mound inspired buildings: Termite mounds keep their inner temperatures nearly constant despite external conditions reaching as high as 40 degrees or as low as -2 degrees centigrade. They utilise a passive cooling system using a series of vents and airflow can be controlled by opening or blocking tunnels. Architect Mick Pearce used a similar strategy in Zimbabwe on the Eastgate centre which allows the building to stay cool while only using 1/10th of the energy required for a conventional building the same size.