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Biomimesis' Struggle To Match Their Natural Counterparts

Since our resources are limited and continue to be depleted as global demand soars, population increases by the minute, and nature struggles to replenish its stores, researchers try to find ways to create materials with similar properties to natural resources as alternatives for the actual thing.

But designers are finding it difficult to replicate the intricate structures and functions that different natural materials possess. Although, there have been successful devices that have the capacity to imitate living creatures' behavior through machine learning like the recent hummingbird drone. It's far from perfect.

One other example of biomimetic inventions is a snapping device mimicking the Venus Flytrap:

A biomimetic “snapping” device made of hydrogel has been invented by an international team of engineers, reports Phys.org. But the device, inspired by the Venus flytrap, is a far cry from its biological counterpart. 
The living plant does far more than snap shut. It incorporates toothed edges that form a cage for its prey, trigger hairs able to distinguish between living and lifeless objects, and digestive juices that obtain nutrients from trapped bugs. Just getting the artificial device to snap quickly was a major challenge.

Perhaps further research and insight from observing the Venus Flytrap would help researchers design a device that would imitate the features of the plant. Also, it depends on the objectives that the researchers set out as well. Whether their purpose is to make an artificial Venus Flytrap or not, and why.

Other materials were also brought into focus. In particular, nacre or mother of pearl because of its versatility and strength. Scientists seek to make a synthetic counterpart of the material. The challenge they face is its uniqueness and the heavy requirements needed to replicate it.

One natural substance scientists have looked to in creating synthetic materials is nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl. An exceptionally tough, stiff material produced by some mollusks and serving as their inner shell layer, it also comprises the outer layer of pearls, giving them their lustrous shine.
But while nacre’s unique properties make it an ideal inspiration in the creation of synthetic materials, most methods used to produce artificial nacre are complex and energy intensive.

Surely, if more resources are given to biomimetic projects then we would be able to reduce our dependence on nature for materials to build things. That is not to say that this is the panacea for our environmental problems but with other efforts, this could help reinvigorate nature and give them time to breathe and restore its lush abundance.

(Image credit: Hannes Grobe/AWI; Wikimedia Commons, CC by SA 3.0)


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