Taking inspiration from the natural world

Many inventions have come about when humans have looked at nature to see how problems are solved and mimicked those solutions --- it's called biomimicry.

There are many examples of biomimicry in today's world.

Kingfisher/bullet train

The kingfisher bird inspired the design of the Shinkansen Bullet Train in Japan. The kingfisher's beak is long and sharply pointed, allowing it to enter water without a splash so that its prey is not scared away by the noise of it diving. Its silent approach increases the chances of a successful hunt. The bullet train's front has a sharp wedge-like shape that reduces noise as the train exits tunnels at high speeds.

Gecko/climbing equipment

Geckos seem like they stick to surfaces and can climb just about anything. However, their toes aren't sticky at all. Geckos actually have hundreds of microscopic hairs on their toes called setae that each split off into hundreds of even smaller bristles called spatulae that create an electromagnetic effect with the surface a gecko is climbing. Scientists have created climbing pads capable of supporting a human's weight that uses this same scientific principle.

person climbing glass

E. Hawks et al.

Snakeskin/friction-reduced surfaces

Snakeskin has an incredible ability to reduce friction as the animal moves and is resistant to wear in dry, dusty and sandy environments. Scientists have begun experimenting with etching snakeskin designs onto steel and have found that it reduces friction by up to 40 percent when it moves against a surface, compared with a smooth object.

(Read how snakes move without legs)


Hedgehogs are covered in hollow spines that help protect them from predators, but the spines also help to cushion impact if the animal falls. (Learn how a hedgehog rolls up) Researchers are working on football helmet liners that would mimic the spines of a hedgehog to help decrease damage upon impact and reduce concussions.

Hedgemon helmet

Learn more about this helmet at https://www.uakron.edu/im/news/new-style-helmet-could-reduce-risk-of-concussions/

Other examples of biomimicry include the Osprey helicopter, modeled after the osprey; suit of armor, modeled after a turtle; Speedo swimsuits modeled after sharkskin; and ventilation systems inspired by termites. The world is constantly changing, and biomimicry is an important inspiration for inventions.