What is Biomimicry?
While human engineers work to solve all manner of problems the world faces, animals and plants have had a 4 billion year head start. Many of the species around today have already optimized themselves to face these challenges – they wouldn’t be around otherwise. By examining nature, we can extrapolate ideas and designs to solve similar problems faced by humans.
As The Biomimicry Institute puts it:
The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.
Video from the Biomimicry Institute
Sharks are unique creatures. Whales, ships, and other objects that travel through the water accumulate algae, seaweed, barnacles, and other types of bio-fouling that decrease their swimming efficiency. But sharks are different – despite moving slowly through the water, their skin remains clean. If you take the design of sharkskin and shrink it down, smaller than what humans can see, it has the same effect on bacteria. The same pattern that prevents algae from sticking to the skin of sharks prevents bacteria from sticking to Sharklet.
Sharks evolved to have this pattern on their skin. Our micropatterns were inspired by this pattern and use it to protect humans. Sharklet is one of countless advances in the field of biomimicry. Dr. Tony Brennan was inspired by both the practical function and mechanical design of shark skin. This inspiration is reflected in the design of the Sharklet micropattern.
On the left is an image of a shark skin denticle. On the right is the Sharklet micropattern. Note the similarities in design – diamond pattern and ordered feature lengths
Research has shown that the flippers of humpback whales are grooved, which provides superior dexterity and speed in the water. The same design that helps these massive creatures move quickly in the water can be applied to increase efficiency in wind turbines and aircraft wings and rotors.
Scientists have studied the feet of geckos and have found that they contain physical properties that promote stickiness. This stickiness lets geckos hang in precarious positions, yet easily release when they are ready to move again. This structure is being mimicked in adhesives and has wide ranging potential, from fun activities like rock climbing to a role as an adhesive in important medical devices.
Smaller than a human hair and invisible to the naked eye, the Sharklet micropattern mimics sharkskin to create surfaces inhospitable for bacteria. Learn more about the micropattern and how it works.
Learn about the research of Dr. Anthony Brennan, the Founder of Sharklet, and how a project to increase the efficiency of the United States Navy turned into a major breakthrough for the control of bacteria.