Since ancient times men have always imitated nature for their artifacts, 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 “flying machines”.
The Wright Brothers, and the first heavier-than-air aircraft in 1903, derived inspiration from observations of pigeons in flight.
The term biomimicry appeared as early as 1982 but was popularized by scientist Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: “Innovation Inspired by Nature.”
Janine Benyus in her book says
“With biomimicry we’re able to apply fresh thinking to traditional manufacturing, to undo the toxic and energy-intensive mistakes of the past… I wish we had been at the design table at the Industrial Revolution.”
Suggesting to look at Nature as a “Model, Measure, and Mentor” and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry.
In biological systems, waste doesn’t exist and everything can be used by something else. Instead of using large inputs of energy and toxic chemicals to make things and ship them across the globe, nature makes what it needs where it needs it, with water-based chemistry.
These designs suggest some of what could be learned by applying the lessons of biomimicry to the problem of air-conditioning in particular.
One of the most important example of biomimicry in ventilation is inspired by termites. A few years ago, scientists observed that big termite mounds in Africa stay remarkably cool inside, even in blistering heat.
The insects accomplish that feat with a clever system of air pockets, which drive natural ventilation through convection.
Inspired by this idea, Architect Mick Pearce and engineering firm Arup builded Eastgate Centre, a large office and shopping center in Zimbabwe that is cooled with the outside air. The system uses only 10 percent as much energy as conventional air-conditioning to drive fans that keep the air circulating.
Another example of biomimicry is guided by the Ducks and penguins behavior. These animals live in cold climates and have an innovative adaptation that helps them survive the elements. The veins and arteries in their feet have a countercurrent configuration, which ends up warming the blood that is closer to the animal’s core and cooling the blood at the edges of its extremities. By keeping cooler blood closer to the snow and ice, such birds lose less body heat overall.
Shell tube heat exchangers in industrial-scale heating and cooling systems use a similar type of flow pattern to maximize efficiency, as Clayton Grow, author of The Writing Engineer blog, has pointed out.
Below some video by Janine Benyus (http://biomimicry.net/) at TED TALKS
Other information at Biomimicry 3.8 Institute, http://biomimicry.net/