Janine M. Benyus (born 1958 in New Jersey) is an American natural sciences writer, innovation consultant, and author.
Benyus has authored six books on biomimicry, including Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. In this book she develops the basic thesis that human beings should consciously emulate nature's genius in their designs.
In 1998, Benyus co-founded the Biomimicry Guild, the Innovation Consultancy, which helps innovators learn from and emulate natural models in order to designsustainable products, processes, and policies that create conditions conducive to life. She is also President of the The Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit organizationwhose mission is to naturalize biomimicry in the culture by promoting the transfer of ideas, designs, and strategies from biology to sustainable human systems design.
In this inspiring talk about recent developments in biomimicry,
Janine Benyus provides heartening examples of ways
in which nature is already influencing the products and systems we build.
Janine Benyus has a message for inventors: When solving a design problem, look to nature first. There you'll find inspired designs for making things waterproof, aerodynamic, solar-powered and more. Here she reveals dozens of new products that take their cue from nature with spectacular results.
During the evolutionary arms race organisms have developed a great variety of technical solutions. The biomimetic approach aims at inspiring developers for new and improved technical design.
TERRA video of a presentation by Jay Harman with visuals
by Michael Green on biomimicry at Bioneers 2007.
Directed by Paul Lang, Produced by Paul Lang & David Springbett
for CBC's "The Nature of Things"
Using natural processes as the model for agriculture and business. This two-part series is based on the acclaimed book, "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature", by Janine Benyus.
Humans have always looked to nature for inspiration to solve problems. One of the early examples of biomimicry was the study of birds to enable human flight. Although never successful in creating a "flying machine", Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was a keen observer of the anatomy and flight of birds, and made numerous notes and sketches on his observations as well as sketches of various "flying machines".
The Wright Brothers, who finally did succeed in creating and flying the first airplane in 1903, also derived inspiration for their airplane from observations of pigeons in flight.
Otto Schmitt, an American academic and inventor, coined the term biomimetics to describe the transfer of ideas from biology to technology.
The term biomimetics only entered the Websters Dictionary in 1974 and is defined as "the study of the formation, structure, or function of biologically produced substances and materials (as enzymes or silk) and biological mechanisms and processes (as protein synthesis or photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of synthesizing similar products by artificial mechanisms which mimic natural ones".
In 1960, the term bionics was coined by psychiatrist and engineer Jack Steele to mean "the science of systems which have some function copied from nature". Bionics entered the Webster dictionary in 1960 as "a science concerned with the application of data about the functioning of biological systems to the solution of engineering problems".
The term bionic took on a different connotation when Martin Caidin referenced Jack Steele and his work in the novel "Cyborg" which later resulted in the 1974 television series "The Six Million Dollar Man" and its spin-offs.
The term bionic then became associated with 'the use of electronically operated artificial body parts' and 'having ordinary human powers increased by or as if by the aid of such devices'. Because the term bionic took on the implication of super natural strength, the scientific community in English speaking countries shied away from using it in subsequent years.
The term biomimicry appeared as early as 1982. The term biomimicry was popularized by scientist and author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.Biomimicry is defined in her book as a "new science that studies nature's models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems". Benyus suggests looking to Nature as a "Model, Measure, and Mentor" and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry.
The San Diego Zoo started its biomimicry programs in 2007, and recently commissioned an Economic Impact Study to determine the economic potential of biomimicry. The report was titled Biomimicry: An Economic Game Changer and estimated that biomimicry would have a $300 billion annual impact on the US economy, plus add an additional $50 billion in environmental remediation.
Researchers, for example, studied the termite's ability to maintain virtually constant temperature and humidity in their termite mounds in Africa despite outside temperatures that vary from 1.5 °C to 40 °C (35 °F to 104 °F).
Researchers initially scanned a termite mound and created 3-D images of the mound structure, which revealed construction that can influence human building design. The Eastgate Centre, a mid-rise office complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, (highlighted in this Biomimicry Institute case-study) stays cool without air conditioning and uses only 10% of the energy of a conventional building its size.
Modeling echolocation in bats in darkness has led to a cane for the visually impaired. Research at the University of Leeds, in the United Kingdom, led to the UltraCane, a product formerly manufactured, marketed and sold by Sound Foresight Ltd.
Janine Benyus refers in her books to spiders that create web silk as strong as the Kevlar used in bulletproof vests. Engineers could use such a material—if it had a long enough rate of decay—for parachute lines, suspension bridge cables, artificial ligaments for medicine, and many other purposes.
Other research has proposed adhesive glue from mussels, solar cells made like leaves, fabric that emulates shark skin, harvesting water from fog like a beetle, and more. Nature’s 100 Best is a compilation of the top hundred different innovations of animals, plants, and other organisms that have been researched and studied by the Biomimicry Institute.
A display technology based on the reflective properties of certain morpho butterflies was commercialized by Qualcomm in 2007. The technology uses Interferometric Modulation to reflect light so only the desired color is visible to the eye in each individual pixel of the display.
Biomimicry may also provide design methodologies and techniques to optimize engineering products and systems. An example is the re-derivation of Murray's law, which in conventional form determined the optimum diameter of blood vessels, to provide simple equations for the pipe or tube diameter which gives a minimum mass engineering system.
A novel engineering application of biomimetics is in the field of structural engineering. Recently, researchers from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have been incorporating biomimetic characteristics in an adaptive deployable tensegrity bridge . The bridge can carry out self-diagnosis and self-repair.From Wikipedia