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Drawing Inspiration from Animals: How They Shaped Modern Inventions


They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Over the past couple of centuries, humans have been looking to animals as forms of inspiration, and believe it or not, they have shaped the modern engineering world as we know it. Here are several examples of biomimicry that make the world look how it does today.

Firefly LEDs

It really is no secret that LEDs are more efficient, produce no heat, and are several times brighter than other light bulb types. LED engineers found that the lanterns in a firefly produce asymmetrical projections to release more light. With this knowledge, scientists have created 90% brighter LED bulbs by following the same asymmetrical structure.

Woodpecker Black Boxes

Bashing your mouth against a log 20 times a second would undoubtedly leave you with more than just a headache. However, woodpeckers have mastered the art of repeatedly knocking their beaks against hard bark for centuries. The construction of their craniums allows them to do this without succumbing to brain damage. Engineers have used the same cushioning technology to ensure that black boxes remain intact by absorbing higher amounts of mechanical shock.

Otter Wetsuits

Researchers at MIT designed wetsuits that follow the same rubbery pelts of cute sea otters. These fur-like pelts don’t just help sea otters navigate through water like fish, but they also keep them toasty while submerged in frigid waters. They found that every individual strand in an otter’s coat is used to trap pockets of warm air that stay in place as they twist in turn underwater.

Butterfly Anti-Counterfeiting Technology

There are improved ways of busting money counterfeiters thanks to the help of butterflies. Scientists at Simon Fraser University examined the thin wings of the Costa Rican morpho butterfly, which helped lead to the design and production of an anti-counterfeiting stamp. This is a lot more difficult to replicate as opposed to holograms, and it serves a wide range of functions outside of the financial world.

Albatross Drones

The majestic albatross is known for flying far distances while hardly flapping its wings. It utilizes wind and thermals to glide its body across 600 miles every day. MIT researchers are attempting to mimic the flight design of the albatross in order to develop more efficient drones that can fly across large bodies of water without stopping.

Arapaima Fish Body Armor

The US Air Force is looking closely at the bodies of arapaima fish from the Amazon. This slow-moving, torpedo-shaped fish would appear to be easy game for predator fish, but this is hardly ever the case. The arapaima fish has a set of scales unlike any other that it has developed over the course of millions of years. This could potentially help the US Air Force develop sturdier body armor for its pilots to withstand heavy physical trauma.