Biomimicry is quickly developing as an emerging practice in the engineering and design process. According to the Biomimicry Institute, the practice of biomimicry is defined as intentionally trying to design products or processes in ways that mimic the biological and natural product and process as closely as possible. Natural processes have been solving engineering problems for more than 3.8 billion years. Utilizing the experience of the natural world to solve the problems facing mankind and the development of personalized health is a no brainer. As an example, natural selection has enabled bacterial to compete for survival longer than human beings have. Many other life forms, from plants to insects, have specialized components that allow for successful survival. The specialized components are often at the cellular level and with advances in biotechnology, students could apply successful strategies to solve healthcare challenges.
Utilizing step one, defining the problem, of the engineering design process from NGSS is crucial to Biomimicry. Once the problem has been defined, the students will explore solutions by observing the natural world and thinking about its wonders. This will allow students to generate ideas to help them solve healthcare problems. One example that has been recently developed is technology of a needle based on the mosquito’s proboscis. The female mosquito has developed a mostly painless way of sucking blood. According to the research by Kong XQ, the success of the mosquito is based on the design of the proboscis but also the force and frequency of the penetration. As more scientists studied the evolved biological successes of the mosquito, the more they realized that a better designed needle could lead to a less painful way of drawing blood, distributing vaccines and other medicines; making them more viable.
“The reason we look at nature for cues is because nature has been through so much evolution to discover the simplest and most efficient methods,” Bharat Bhushan, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ohio State, told Digital Trends. “In this work what interested us was the way that mosquitoes bite, since they are able to do this for several minutes without us feeling a thing. We wanted to use this to see if we could develop a painless microneedle.”
Bhushan makes an excellent point in regards to leaning on natures evolutionary solutions to complex problems. Another example was featured on CBS Sunday Morning, while observing the phenomenon of a frog capturing an insect, mechanical engineers realized the adhesive on the tongue of the from saliva was able to withstand seven times the force of gravity. As a mechanical engineer specializing in fluid mechanics, the aspiration is to develop a stronger adhesive using biomimicry.
One of the most compelling reasons for using biomimicry to develop human health solutions is sustainability. Sustainability is one of the main components in successful innovations. Sustainability encompasses multiple aspects. Environmental sustainability needs to be considered, especially with the negative impact humans are currently having on the climate, When Biomimicry is used, there is an increased potential for great environmental sustainability because in nature, nothing is wasted. As humans work to solve major health problems in both the industrialized and developing world, we must consider sustainability with growing concerns about climate change. As the study of biomimicry becomes more popular, the realization that nature has solved problems in the most efficient way. John Elkington described The Triple Bottom Line as an accounting framework that incorporates the three dimensions of people, planet and profits. The three P’s of the Triple Bottom Line are difficult to measure but should be kept at the forefront of all engineering and design decisions.