"Biomimicry" May Be The Answer

By: Jill Cordes
By: Jill Cordes

We can learn a lot from nature. Especially if we take nature's most elegant designs and use them to build high-tech solutions to human problems. That's the basic idea behind a growing area of engineering called biomimicry.

Think about the tail fins on the cars of the Fifties. They were mostly there for looks - they didn't do a whole lot to make those cars any faster. But today's biomimicry is about more than a pretty look. It's about helping people copy nature with sustainability in mind.

Take the humpback whale. It's one of the largest animals on the planet, but it swims and flips around in the water in ways that seem almost impossible. The secret lies in the angle of its pectoral fins. Wind turbine manufacturers have applied this natural design to their blades - and have been able to create more electricity with the same amount of wind power.

And those '50s tail fins? Well, Mercedes-Benz has used a fish to help design a super-energy-efficient concept car. Even though it has an unusual shape, on the road, that means better fuel efficiency.

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