In bionics scientists and engineers work in interdisciplinary teams
Velcro, the lotus effect and shark skin: our everyday lives would now be inconceivable without these classical applications of bionics. However, this research field combining biology and technology is not only concerned with mimicking clever natural role-models. In fact, bionics experts investigate the complex processes and structures found in nature. Then they try to transfer the useful functions to technical solutions. ‘Learning from nature’ is an interdisciplinary area of research that generates exciting new occupations.
Scientists and engineers from various disciplines cooperate closely to develop biological solutions in all areas of technology, business and society. Construction bionics, for example, analyses the individual elements of biological structures. Its research results help in the development of bionic constructions, which then have a range of applications. One example is the tail fin of the trout, which beats back and forth. It has been copied in the technology of the ‘fin pump’, which can be used to pump even viscous liquids along pipes without any problem.
Economic bionics specialists are also learning from nature. They use their findings to develop strategies or corporate organisational policies. For example, plants support one another when the environmental conditions change. They react jointly to pollutants, and undertake certain tasks best suited to their respective metabolism. This is ‘best practice’ for knowledge management.
NICOL foundation (Nieklitzer Ökologie- und Ökotechnologie-Stiftung)
Bionics: From gecko feet to high tech
Our noses are great at multitasking. They can smell, filter the air we breathe, and enable us to breathe in and out. If a technical device can do several things at once, it saves resources. This is because the materials, energy and time required for producing it are used only once. The ‘fin pump’, for instance, can transport liquids in both directions along a pipe.
Once biological role-models have been recognised, and their principles understood and successfully applied in technology, the possibilities for innovation are enormous. The famous lotus effect is one example. It causes particles of dirt and water to run off a surface, and this has been transferred to various applications such as car bodies, paints, roofing tiles and textiles. Many companies are therefore investing increasingly in bionic innovations for sustainable products.
Bionics also means innovative and sustainable production
For this reason, more and more companies are participating in interdisciplinary exchange between scientists and researchers. The competence networks on bionics and the related fields of biomimetics and ecotechnology offer extensive platforms for information and ongoing education and training. They form meeting points for scientists from various disciplines, students and partners from industry and business, where they share information about developing innovative products and technologies.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing a total of 30 million euro for its scheme entitled ‘BIONA – Bionic Innovations for Sustainable Products and Technologies’, for practicable, sustainable developments taking a bionic approach.
Bionic Learning Network of the company Festo: BionicOpter – Inspired by dragonfly flight
From reflectors to aircraft: bionics everywhere you look
For all those interested in studying, or in occupational training or continuing education in the field of bionics, a large number of universities and institutes offer courses with a bionic focus, bionic fields of research, and multi-disciplinary cooperative projects. But also for all those who want to find out more about the biological predecessors of their retina display, Velcro fasteners on their bags or the reflectors on their bicycles, many inspiring illustrations can be found in exhibitions, educational initiatives and gardens, for example. And there is definitely a lot to be discovered in bionics… Did you know that when your doctor gives you an injection it uses the same principle as the hornet’s sting?
German nation-wide research competition ‘jugend filmt bionik’ (‘youth films bionics’)
Discussion about bionics
Are you interested in the subject of bionics, or do you know of any interesting research projects? How does bionics help shape the world of tomorrow? Which products and which methods of production are already pointing the way for the future? What is becoming ever more important for sustainable production and management in business? Tell us more about it in a comment below.