Biomimetics

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Mother Nature deserves the Pritzker Prize for smart design. Her creations have been refined over billions of years and are often stronger, faster, lighter, less wasteful and more sustainable than anything man can make, which is why we steal her best ideas.

From climbing pads inspired by gecko feet to architectural tricks learned from termites, Belinda Beckett delves into the wonders of biomimetics – the science of mimicking nature to solve our own problems.

Mother Nature deserves the Pritzker Prize for smart design. Her creations have been refined over billions of years and are often stronger, faster, lighter, less wasteful and more sustainable than anything man can make, which is why we steal her best ideas.

From climbing pads inspired by gecko feet to architectural tricks learned from termites, Belinda Beckett delves into the wonders of biomimetics – the science of mimicking nature to solve our own problems.

Move over Spiderman. In the near future everyone could be a superhero with the ability to scale skyscrapers – and we have gecko feet to thank for the technology.

These acrobatic lizards can run up verticals and hang upside down thanks to microscopic bristles on their plump toes which generate adhesion known as the van der Waals Force.

The secrets to the gecko’s stickiness have been turned into a variety of gluey solutions including medical adhesives for sealing wounds.

But while it allows geckos to defy gravity, it didn’t work for anything much bigger and Spiderman’s job was safe until a pair of Stanford University researchers came up with hand-held ‘gecko pads’ capable of taking human weight…
Words Belinda Beckett

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