What is bioinspiration?

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Just what is bioinspiration? The simple (and circular) answer would seem to be “finding inspiration from nature and biology of the world around us.” For such a simple concept, it can be very easy to get bogged down in the terminology. The two main divisions of biologically inspired design seem to be bioinspiration and biomimicry. Both have their proponents and opposition.

Bioinspiration is the preferred term of Robert C. Full of the PolyPedal Lab at UC Berkeley. Full operates from a position of evolution being “just good enough” and something that we should strive to improve upon.

This is to be contrasted with the concept of biomimicry.

Merriam Webster defines biomimetics as:

  …the study of the formation, structure, or function of biologically produced substances and materials (as enzymes or silk) and biological mechanisms and processes (as protein synthesis or photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of synthesizing similar products by artificial mechanisms which mimic natural ones

So in biomimicry, we aim to replicate the mechanics of natural life exactly. One well-known example of this is Gecko tape, modeled after the many tiny bristles on a gecko’s foot that allow it to climb up walls.

Is one discipline inherently better than another? Should we strive to mimic biological processes or improve on them? What do you think?

Sources:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biomimetics

https://learn.illinois.edu/mod/lesson/view.php?id=195211&pageid=53290&startlastseen=no

Picture Sources:

http://robotics.eecs.berkeley.edu/~ronf/Gecko/Interface-slide-adhesion/load-area-small.jpg

http://robotics.eecs.berkeley.edu/~ronf/Gecko/Interface-slide-adhesion/load-area-small.jpg

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