The natural world as our mentors!
The Cochlear sound processor was invented by Professor Graeme Clark after he found the solution to placing an electrode within the inner ear by experimenting with a blade of grass and a small turban shell. This experiment also provided great insight to the importance of graded stiffness in the design of the electrode. Ultimately Professor Clark’s work has lead us to releasing the Baha 5 technology, the world smallest sound processor and the wonderful wireless accessories that goes with it.
This got us to thinking! “What other world changing inventions can be attributed to the animal kingdom?”
There is a scientific field of study called Biomimicry – it is essentially how we can benefit from mimicking the advancements and evolution of the animal kingdom.
Researched studying sharkskin discovered that the tiny scales on a shark’s skin help reduce drag in the water. We all know that sharks skin is rough in one direction but smooth if you run you hand in the other. This technology has been mimicked to improve world records in the competitive swimming pool, but also in wetsuits for Navy Divers. Similarly research discovered that these same scales prevent barnacles from attaching to the shark. Applying this technology to sea going vessels will reduce the need for constant hull upkeep and cleaning, and potentially save millions of Rands each year.
Stolen from a parasitic worm skin graft technology always faced a specific problem, how to keep the graft in place. The parasite, used as inspiration, inflates its head within a wound to latch on to avoid being swept from its host. Scientists then mimicked the swelling action by inventing skin graft technology that includes tiny needles that swell when exposed to water. By placing the skin graft with the needle side toward the wound, these needles use moisture from the wound and tissue to hold itself in place – this technique has proven to be stronger than stitches or surgical staples and will also reduce the risk of scarring.
We use Velcro almost every single day of our lives; we use it on our shoes, our clothing, to hold cables and in our hair.. we even use Velcro in space! Swiss engineer George de Mestral studied plant burrs to invent Velcro. The way plant burrs stick to clothing, dog hair and other materials has solved many a human problem, simply by mimicking millions of tiny hooks essential for the Burr species survival.
Green air-conditioning is no longer a dream; it’s a reality thanks to the Termite population. Termites have an amazing ventilation system that maintains internal temperature of the termite mound irrespective of the outside conditions. This temperature is essential for the population to function at optimum. Architects have since mimicked the array of tunnels and chimneys to provide entire buildings with stable air-conditioning without any air-conditioning units, and thus create green temperature stable environments.
The World owes much to the animal kingdom. In many case they invented it first. Scientists consistently look toward the natural world to help solve human issues and although this list is short there are countless other examples of where we have learnt from animals and nature. Long may this relationship of learning continue.