Why Biomimicry Will Shape the Future of Design

This is astounding.  I have heard of bio-mimicry before in our second year studio with Professor Katrina, but until now I guess I have sort of taken it for granted.  I assigned it to aesthetics and buildings only, without letting it expand to where it truly fits: everywhere.  In this talk, Jay Harman, President and CEO of Pax Scientific, starts off by giving several examples of elements found in nature that can impact our own products, or the way that we design buildings or pharmaceuticals, etc.  One particularly fascinating chemical that exists in nature is hippopotamus sweat.  It is a natural sun-block.  It is waterproof, spreads on it’s own, and of course effectively blocks UV radiation.  Companies are currently testing and engineering hippopotamus sweat to be used in human sunscreen to create a more effective radiation blocking cream.  Why has this not been done before? In a sense, it is so simple.  This knowledge has existed around us for hundreds, thousands of years.  It works for our animal and plant friends, so why can it not work for us?  Another pattern that Harman mentions is the vortex, a geometry found nearly everywhere in nature, the weather, our ears, seashells, and even a human skin pore.  He notes that there are no straight lines in nature, yet we use nearly only straight lines in our architecture and designs.

We think as humans, that by going in a straight line, we are using the least amount of energy.  Pax Scientific essentially “froze” a whirlpool and created a miniscule component to place in a massive tank of water, that processed and cleaned the water to make it potable and reduce energy consumption by about 80% as well.  This component is now in application all over the world, and works in every installation.  Apparently, copying nature actually works.

My one concern, particularly with chemicals is the question of whether or not something that works for a hippopotamus can work for us?  Will we have adverse reactions? How much of an adaption do we have to make before our creations are basically synthetic?

Harman, J. (2015, February 9). Why Biomimicry Will Shape the Future of Design. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.greenbiz.com/video/why-biomimicry-will-shape-future-design


2 thoughts on “Why Biomimicry Will Shape the Future of Design

  1. That is very interesting Maddie! I am always fascinated by the concept of bio mimicry. Nature has existed much longer than the human race and I’m sure it will continue to exist long after we are gone. Species that have endured and evolved to stay alive for so many years must be doing something right. You ask if our creations using bio mimicry will eventually become fully synthetic. I say yes and I do not think it means that we have learned any less. The best example I can think of is 3D printed organs and bones. We learned from the human body and have seen great benefits. Whether our creations are completely synthetic or organic, advances based on natural phenomena will continue to change the world!


  2. I am glad you enjoyed this! I think that Biomimicry can take so many forms in design – direct form replication, processes, compositions, etc. – and even a combination of several of elements. What is most exciting to me is that we looking beyond our own professional fields/boundaries and recognizing solutions that work in one situation/environment and adapting them to another. I agree with Grace that while these solutions may be fully synthetic, it is by examining the processes of nature that we will hopefully arrive at a more sustainable design solution.


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