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This wiki archives the progress of a committee at ASU formed to outline a new initiative to foster research and education efforts related to biomimicry and bio-inspiration.

Resources

Definitions

Alternate forms include biomimicry, bio-inspiration, bionics, and biomutualism. Sometimes biomimetric is used, but the origin of this term was likely a typo that managed to enter the popular vocabulary.
Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a new science that studies nature's best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example. I think of it as "innovation inspired by nature."
Also see her 2009 TED Talk and her essay, "A Good Place to Settle: Biomimicry, Biophilia, and the Return of Nature's Inspiration to Architecture" (PDF)
Genetic modification is a form of using biology – what we call “bio-assisted” – rather than learning from it. In bio-assisted processes we domesticate the producer. In biomimicry, we emulate the producer. For example, in biomimicry you would study the spider’s “manufacturing process” for silk and then figure out how to emulate that process.
Biomimicry is a design tool based on emulating the strategies used by living things. These strategies include the forms, processes and systems of nature.
Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems.[1] The term biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Similar terms include bionics.
This definition references a definition from the Centre for Biomimetics at the University of Reading.
Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a design discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies, e.g., a solar cell inspired by a leaf. The core idea is that Nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with: energy, food production, climate control, non-toxic chemistry, transportation, packaging, and a whole lot more.
Bionics (also known as biomimicry, biomimetics, bio-inspiration, biognosis, and close to bionical creativity engineering) is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology.
It goes on to give two possibilities for the etymology of "bionic." The first possibility is that bion (unit of life) was combined with -ic (in the manner of) to form a word that means "like life." The second possibility is a portmanteau of biology and electronics.
[Biomutualism is] An association between biology and another discipline where each discipline reciprocally advances the other to where the collective advances that emerge are beyond any single field. (30 seconds into the video)
We need to build biomutualisms like I showed that will increase the pace of basic discovery, in their application. But to do this we need to redesign education in a major way, to balance depth with interdisciplinary communication. And explicitly train people how to contribute to, and benefit from other disciplines. And of course you need the organisms and environment to do it.
technology that tries to do what animals do
So perhaps this term is not a typo and instead refers to measuring the abilities of animals and attempting to reproduce them artificially.

On-line Reference Material

Organizations

Web resources include independent organizations seeking to advance education, penetration, or entrepreneurship related to biomimicry and bio-inspiration. They also include university-affiliated centers of research and education which may be a model for the ASU initiative.

Independent Organizations
  • Biomimicry 3.8 – Organization that aims to "naturalize" biomimicry in culture
    • See their recommended reading list
    • Projects and constituent organizations:
      • AskNature.org – For the purpose of inspiring biomimetic design, provides a catalog of how nature solves problems
        • In particular, see their Biomimicry Taxonomy
        • Criticism: Very little contextual mobility in cataloged examples
      • Biomimicry Institute – "The Biomimicry Institute promotes learning from and then emulating natural forms, processes, and ecosystems to create more sustainable and healthier human technologies and designs."
      • Biomimicry Guild – "The Biomimicry Guild is the only innovation company in the world to use a deep knowledge of biological adaptations to help designers, engineers, architects, and business leaders solve design and engineering challenges sustainably."
Groups with University Sponsors or Collaborators
GLBio consists of a collaboration of Northeast Ohio organizations and individuals focused on developing a place-based, living learning ecosystem based on biomimicry. Currently, over 100 individuals from all elements of the NEO community are involved in this collaborative effort ranging from business, educational, medical and public and philanthropic sectors. Collectively these groups are engaged in working to determine what structures and processes are needed to establish Northeast Ohio as the world’s preeminent biomimicry lens capital. Additionally, these groups are exploring means to leverage place-based assets into economic advantage. The output from these individuals will be incorporated into a significantly more comprehensive business plan for GLBio.
The GLBio mission statement:
GlBio will use its creatively assembled and diverse group of partners to develop a place-based, living, learning laboratory system and culture, based on biomimicry, which is unique not only in the United States, but worldwide.
Janine Benyus has visited the group, they have received some media coverage, and designs from affiliated-researchers at the University of Akron include gecko-inspired tape.
University-Affiliated Groups
Biologically-inspired design is an emerging field with considerable potential to provide innovative solutions to a variety of problems in human design and engineering. Biologists and engineers each face the problem of identifying design criteria, yet each discipline approaches design from a unique perspective. Through the adoption of a common language and a merging of perspectives, students exemplify the interdisciplinary process in overcoming the barriers that often inhibit true multidisciplinary collaborations. Through problem solving exercises, they learn how to use the design process to create biologically-based systems or prototypes that solve specific engineering problems and test hypothesized functions of biological properties. Employing classroom observations, in situ cognitive studies, experiments conducted in class, and detailed analysis of student design products, this project is focusing on five learning objectives: (1) novel techniques for creative design, (2) interdisciplinary communication skills, (3) knowledge about domains outside students' core training, (4) a uniquely interdisciplinary design process, and (5) techniques for applying existing technical knowledge to a new discipline. By treating nature as a respected mentor, a greater appreciation for the information found in natural systems promotes conservation and sustainability efforts to preserve biodiversity. Biologically inspired designs are efficient solutions to real-world problems.
This project is also establishing assessment metrics to measure design education outcomes, and to empirically validate the degree of success of the BID education platform. This is being undertaken through evaluations of the project's key themes: creativity, communication, cross-domain knowledge transfer, and design skills. The evaluation work is also assessing student differences as functions of their backgrounds and, for group projects, as a function of the diversity of backgrounds.
Publications produced as a result of this research include:
as well as several book chapters and conference submissions.
  • See their Education page for more information.
It would be interesting to know how many students actually participate in the first two innovative bullets compared to how many spend their time as the more conventional TA.

Media

Biomimicry appears in popular media in periodical forms, like magazine and news, as well books for both the lay person and the student.

Magazines

  • Zygote Quarterly – Online quarterly journal of bio-inspiration
    • In the next issue, biomimicry at ASU will be featured.

News

In addition to its sensitivity, human skin is remarkably responsive, adapting to changing conditions almost as fast as you can say “exfoliation.” It protects us against disease, water loss and radiation, and it constantly renews itself.

What if buildings had adaptable skins? They, too, would be able to respond to heat, humidity and light, saving energy.

Teams of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania hope to figure this out, using National Science Foundation grants to study the adaptability and resiliency of human cells. They plan to study cells of all kinds, not just skin cells, to create future building “skins.” The work could lead to a new method of sustainable design.
Nanotechnologists, marine biologists and signal-processing experts from Rice University, the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and other U.S. universities have won a $6 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to unlock the secrets of nature’s best camouflage artists. Ultimately, the team hopes to create “metamaterials” that emulate some of the elegant skin colors and patterns produced by marine animals.
Researchers at MIT have found valuable insight into body armor by studying the African fish Polypterus senegalus. A living fossil, the fish is largely unchanged since the Cretaceous period – when its ancestors faced an ocean full of large, toothy predators. In its defense, it developed a bite-resistant "armored" skin, whose scales are built up from layers of different materials.

In a study sponsored by the US Army, the MIT engineers studied how each layer of these scales reacts to stress in a different way, combining to blunt the effect of a biting attack. Using experimental and computational research, the team “reveals the materials design principles” behind this tough old survivor – principles that can inform the design of new kinds of armor.
Also see the corresponding Nature Materials publication.

Books

  • Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature (Amazon) by Janine Benyus (B3.8, Wikipedia)
    • Also see her essay, "A Good Place to Settle: Biomimicry, Biophilia, and the Return of Nature's Inspiration to Architecture" (PDF)
  • Insects Did It 1st (Amazon) by Paulson Catts Akre, Gregory S. Paulson, Roger D. Akre; illustrated by E. Paul Catts
A 1992 book with "Stories of how insects did things first, and inspired different technology, or just did things first, before other creatures."
This report by the Committee on Frontiers at the Interface of Computing and Biology seeks to establish the intellectual legitimacy of a fundamentally cross-disciplinary collaboration between biologists and computer scientists. That is, while some universities are increasingly favorable to research at the intersection, life science researchers at other universities are strongly impeded in their efforts to collaborate. This report addresses these impediments and describes some strategies for overcoming them.
See, in particular, Chapter 8: "Biological Inspiration for Computing", which "suggests how insights from the biological sciences may have a positive impact on certain research areas in computing, although the impact of this reversed direction is at present much more speculative."

At ASU

See the List of ASU Researchers Doing Bio-inspired Work.

Meeting Notes

Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:00 PM in ISTB-1, Room 374

We will hear from Stephen Pratt about activities going on in SIRG that might be fodder for bio-inspiration at ASU.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 3:00 PM

  • Committee charge:
    • Define bio-mimicry and bio-inspiration
    • Give scope of center (nano to planetary)
    • Provide boundaries (i.e., what areas of biomimicry would and would not be contained)
    • Define broad principles such as use inspired, sustainable, etc.
    • What is the expected impact for education, research, etc.?
    • How would such a center be structured, in broad terms?
    • What kind of funding do we expect to have access to with such a center?
    • Propose a mechanism for moving to the next stage that would include seeking out broader participation and outlining needs that would require internal investment.
  • Open questions:
    • How will an ASU initiative catalyze bio-mimetic and bio-inspired research and education as opposed to just catalog trans-disciplinary research?
      • Could degree/certification programs generate new researchers with backgrounds uniquely fit for this work?
      • Are there broad application areas well suited for ASU as well as application of bio-inspired concepts (e.g., sustainability)?
  • Action items:
    • Gather resources from other bio-mimicry initiatives
      • Definitions of bio-mimicry
      • Organization
    • Identify existing ASU researchers and educators using bio-mimicry and bio-inspiration
    • Identify broad application areas (e.g., generation and distribution of sustainable energy) that both match ASU's existing expertise and have potential to benefit from bio-inspiration
    • For next meeting, invite ASU Social Insect Research Group (SIRG) representative to give research overview

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