Inventions inspired by nature

The science of biomimetics is now at an early stage of development. Biomimetics is the search and borrowing of various ideas from nature and their use to solve the problems facing humanity. Originality, unusualness, impeccable accuracy and economy of resources, in which nature solves its problems, simply cannot but delight and cause a desire to copy these amazing processes, substances and structures to some extent. The term biomimetics was coined in 1958 by American scientist Jack E. Steele. And the word “bionics” came into general use in the 70s of the last century, when the series “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Biotic Woman” appeared on television. Tim McGee cautions that biometrics should not be directly confused with bioinspired modeling because, unlike biomimetics, bioinspired modeling does not emphasize the economical use of resources. Below are examples of the achievements of biomimetics, where these differences are most pronounced. When creating polymeric biomedical materials, the principle of operation of the holothurian shell (sea cucumber) was used. Sea cucumbers have a unique trait – they can change the hardness of the collagen that forms the outer covering of their body. When the sea cucumber senses danger, it repeatedly increases the rigidity of its skin, as if torn by a shell. Conversely, if he needs to squeeze into a narrow gap, he can so weaken between the elements of his skin that it practically turns into a liquid jelly. A group of scientists from Case Western Reserve managed to create a material based on cellulose fibers with similar properties: in the presence of water, this material becomes plastic, and when it evaporates, it solidifies again. Scientists believe that such material is most suitable for the production of intracerebral electrodes, which are used, in particular, in Parkinson’s disease. When implanted into the brain, electrodes made of such material will become plastic and will not damage the brain tissue. U.S. packaging company Ecovative Design has created a group of renewable and biodegradable materials that can be used for thermal insulation, packaging, furniture and computer cases. McGee even already has a toy made from this material. For the production of these materials, the husks of rice, buckwheat and cotton are used, on which the fungus Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) is grown. A mixture containing oyster mushroom cells and hydrogen peroxide is placed in special molds and kept in the dark so that the product hardens under the influence of mushroom mycelium. The product is then dried to stop the growth of the fungus and prevent allergies during use of the product. Angela Belcher and her team have created a novub battery that uses a modified M13 bacteriophage virus. It is able to attach itself to inorganic materials such as gold and cobalt oxide. As a result of virus self-assembly, rather long nanowires can be obtained. Bletcher’s group was able to assemble many of these nanowires, resulting in the basis of a very powerful and extremely compact battery. In 2009, scientists demonstrated the possibility of using a genetically modified virus to create the anode and cathode of a lithium-ion battery. Australia has developed the latest Biolytix wastewater treatment system. This filter system can very quickly turn sewage and food waste into quality water that can be used for irrigation. In the Biolytix system, worms and soil organisms do all the work. Using the Biolytix system reduces energy consumption by almost 90% and works almost 10 times more efficiently than conventional cleaning systems. Young Australian architect Thomas Herzig believes there are huge opportunities for inflatable architecture. In his opinion, inflatable structures are much more efficient than traditional ones, due to their lightness and minimal material consumption. The reason lies in the fact that the tensile force acts only on the flexible membrane, while the compressive force is opposed by another elastic medium – air, which is present everywhere and completely free. Thanks to this effect, nature has been using similar structures for millions of years: every living being consists of cells. The idea of ​​assembling architectural structures from pneumocell modules made of PVC is based on the principles of building biological cellular structures. The cells, patented by Thomas Herzog, are extremely low cost and allow you to create an almost unlimited number of combinations. In this case, damage to one or even several pneumocells will not entail the destruction of the entire structure. The principle of operation used by the Calera Corporation largely mimics the creation of natural cement, which corals use during their life to extract calcium and magnesium from sea water in order to synthesize carbonates at normal temperatures and pressures. And in the creation of Calera cement, carbon dioxide is first converted into carbonic acid, from which carbonates are then obtained. McGee says that with this method, to produce one ton of cement, it is necessary to fix about the same amount of carbon dioxide. The production of cement in the traditional way leads to carbon dioxide pollution, but this revolutionary technology, on the contrary, takes carbon dioxide from the environment. The American company Novomer, which develops new environmentally friendly synthetic materials, has created a technology for producing plastics, where carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are used as the main raw materials. McGee emphasizes the value of this technology, as the release of greenhouse gases and other toxic gases into the atmosphere is one of the main problems of the modern world. In Novomer’s plastics technology, the new polymers and plastics can contain up to 50% carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and the production of these materials requires significantly less energy. Such production will help to bind a significant amount of greenhouse gases, and these materials themselves become biodegradable. As soon as an insect touches the trapping leaf of a carnivorous Venus flytrap plant, the shape of the leaf immediately begins to change, and the insect finds itself in a death trap. Alfred Crosby and his colleagues from Amherst University (Massachusetts) managed to create a polymer material that is able to react in a similar way to the slightest changes in pressure, temperature, or under the influence of an electric current. The surface of this material is covered with microscopic, air-filled lenses that can very quickly change their curvature (become convex or concave) with changes in pressure, temperature, or under the influence of current. The size of these microlenses varies from 50 µm to 500 µm. The smaller the lenses themselves and the distance between them, the faster the material reacts to external changes. McGee says that what makes this material special is that it is created at the intersection of micro- and nanotechnology. Mussels, like many other bivalve mollusks, are able to firmly attach to a variety of surfaces with the help of special, heavy-duty protein filaments – the so-called byssus. The outer protective layer of the byssal gland is a versatile, extremely durable and at the same time incredibly elastic material. Professor of Organic Chemistry Herbert Waite of the University of California has been researching mussels for a very long time, and he managed to recreate a material whose structure is very similar to the material produced by mussels. McGee says that Herbert Waite has opened up a whole new field of research, and that his work has already helped another group of scientists create PureBond technology for treating wood panel surfaces without the use of formaldehyde and other highly toxic substances. Shark skin has a completely unique property – bacteria do not multiply on it, and at the same time it is not covered with any bactericidal lubricant. In other words, the skin does not kill bacteria, they simply do not exist on it. The secret lies in a special pattern, which is formed by the smallest scales of shark skin. Connecting with each other, these scales form a special diamond-shaped pattern. This pattern is reproduced on the Sharklet protective antibacterial film. McGee believes that the application of this technology is truly limitless. Indeed, the application of such a texture that does not allow bacteria to multiply on the surface of objects in hospitals and public places can get rid of bacteria by 80%. In this case, bacteria are not destroyed, and, therefore, they cannot acquire resistance, as is the case with antibiotics. Sharklet Technology is the world’s first technology to inhibit bacterial growth without the use of toxic substances. according to  

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