Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation

De Gruyter Advent Calendar Door | 15

De Gruyter Advent calendar Banner

Back to Advent Calendar Main Page


In a nutshell, biomimetics is man-made nature. More modestly, it could be described as the attempt to reproduce nature's inventions, great and small. Although complicated in detail, the results can be very useful in practice. The simplest example is familiar to everyone: the zip fastener. The most recent biomimetic developments might even save lives.

KletteThe similarity between some human inventions and products of nature is immediately apparent. Aircraft for example have wings, as birds do, and the common suction pad can be found on the tentacles of octopuses. Such comparisons can be made right down to the molecular level. It is there that biomimetics really comes into its own.

The on-chip lung

In microbiology, organs – that is to say their functions – are being imitated on microchips. A chip the size of a thumb has been produced through which vacuum paths run. Embedded within these paths is a membrane. The membrane can be populated with human cells, such as lung cells. Experiments can then be performed on this "living" lung. These include testing the response of cells to infestation by bacteria. New drugs can also be tested.

Similar imitations exist for the heart, kidney, and even the entire human metabolism. Such artificial organisms might one day finally make testing on animals unnecessary. 

Not new in research
PeacockBiomimetics is not new. It was discovered centuries ago, for example, that not all colours consist of pigments of their own. Peacock feathers in bright shining colours for instance do not have thousands of different coloured pigments; they shimmer because of interference effects. This special kind of colours can be reproduced and are more resistant to light than pigmented colours. That’s why they are used for automotive coatings.

What is new in biomimetics however is the co-operation between scientists from the most diverse of disciplines: biologists, chemists, medical experts, physicists, information technologists, engineers, and many others. They have realized that in order to replicate nature, they must all work together. 

BiomimeticsDo you want to learn more about the topic?
Read the textbook Biomimetics: A Molecular Perspective by Raz Jelinek for free.

In order to access the ebook, please activate the free access token HAPPYHOLIDAYS in your personal user account until December 31, 2014.

If you have already activated the token at a previous door, you can access the publication without doing anything else directly via the respective product page.

If you do not have an account on De Gruyter Online yet, please note that you need to register until December 16, 2014 due to technical maintenance on our website backend. The activation of access token if you already have an account is not affected by this.