Five human technologies inspired by nature—from velcro to racing cars

Dan Smith

5 Human Technologies Inspired by Nature, From Velcro to Race Cars
Many of human innovations are inspired by the natural world. Credit: Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock
Over millions of years, nature has evolved solutions to adapt to various challenges. As the challenges facing humanity become more complex, we draw more and more inspiration from nature.
Taking biological processes and applying them to technical and design problems is called bioinspiration. This is a rapidly growing field and our ability to mimic nature is becoming more sophisticated. Here are his five striking examples of how nature has guided human innovation. In some cases, it can lead to even more exciting breakthroughs. 1. Navigation Bats can fly in complete darkness using echolocation. They emit sound and ultrasound waves and monitor the time and magnitude of these wave reflections to create a three-dimensional spatial map of her surroundings. The sensors that identify obstacles when reversing in many modern cars are inspired by bat navigation. Obstacle direction and distance are calculated by emitting ultrasonic waves that bounce off objects in the vehicle's path. Sensory navigation techniques have also been proposed to improve safety for the visually impaired. An ultrasonic sensor attached to the human body provides voice-based feedback of a person's surroundings. This allows you to move more freely by eliminating the threat of obstacles. 2. Construction machinery Woodpeckers tap the hard surfaces of trees to find food, build nests, and attract mates. Construction tools such as handheld hydraulic and pneumatic hammers use approximately the same frequency (20-25 Hz) as a woodpecker's hammer to mimic the vibration of a woodpecker's beak. However, the vibrations of these power tools can injure construction workers' hands. This can in some cases cause vibrating white fingers, a condition in which patients experience persistent numbness and pain in their hands and arms.
5 Human Technologies Inspired by Nature, From Velcro to Race Cars
Zigzag folded paper can withstand heavy loads. Credit: Amin Al-Habaibeh, provided by the author.
Research is now investigating how woodpeckers protect the brain from the effects of repeated digging. One study found that woodpeckers have several shock-absorbing adaptations that other birds do not. Their skulls are adapted to be tough and rigid, with their tongues wrapped around the back of the skull and fixed between their eyes. . Such research guides the design of shock absorbers and vibration control devices to protect users of such equipment. The same concept is also influencing innovations such as layered shock-absorbing structures for architectural design. 3. Building design Scallops are mollusks with a fan-shaped corrugated outer shell. The zigzag shape of these corrugations strengthens the structure of the shell, allowing it to withstand high pressures underwater. The same process is used to strengthen corrugated boxes, where a corrugated paper material is glued between the two outer corrugated layers. In the same way that zigzag folding a piece of paper provides additional load, introducing a corrugated surface greatly increases the strength of the material. The domed structure of the scallop shell allows it to withstand heavy loads. This structure distributes weight evenly across the dome shape, reducing the load to a single point, so it stands on its own. This increased structural stability without the need for steel reinforcement, and has inspired the design of many buildings, including St. Paul's Cathedral in London. 4. Transport aerodynamics Sharks have two dorsal fins, which gives them several aerodynamic advantages. They keep the shark from rolling and their aerofoil shape creates an area of ​​less turbulence behind them, making the shark's forward movement more efficient.
5 Human Technologies Inspired by Nature, From Velcro to Race Cars
Hook and loop structures under the microscope.Credit: Amin Al Habaibeh
Shark fins are reproduced by electric transport. For example, racing cars use fins to reduce turbulence at high speeds and improve stability when cornering. Many road cars now have a small 'shark fin' on the roof that is used to integrate the radio antenna. This reduces drag compared to traditional pole antennas. It also draws inspiration from nature to increase the flight efficiency of the aircraft. The owl's wings act as a suspension system. By changing the position, shape and angle of the wings, the effects of turbulence during flight can be reduced. Studies of owl flight may also open the door to turbulence-free air travel in the future. 5. Velcro The Velcro hook and loop fastening mechanism was inspired by the ability of burdock burrs to secure to human clothing. Plants use burrs to attach seed pods to passing animals and people, dispersing the seeds over a wider area. The crowbar has a small hook that interlocks with a small loop of soft material. Velcro replicates this using hook-lined strips alongside fabric strips. When pressed together, the hooks are attached to the loops and secured to each other. Velcro is used in a wide range of products around the world. According to NASA, it was used during the Apollo program from 1961 to 1972 to hold instruments in place in zero gravity.

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