Biomimicry 3.8 takes the best of nature and makes it better
JANINE BENYUS’s theory of evolution By Jessie Scanlon
Janine Benyus is the co-founder of Biomimicry 3.8, a design consulting firm named not after proprietary software, but rather the 3.8 billion years nature has been doing its own design R&D. The firm grew out of her 1997 book, Biomimicry, which popularized the idea of applying natural principles to product design, and its clients include multinational corporations, city planners from around the world, and several U.S. federal agencies. To Benyus, the idea of man vs. nature is nonsense. “We are nature,” she says. “And once that separation goes away, it puts us in the role of student rather than conqueror.” For this issue, she shared some of what she’s learned on her own and on others’ projects.
● Many insects secrete a thin, oily film that helps them adhere to surfaces, but the porous surface of the carnivorous PITCHER PLANT holds on to water, rendering such adhesive films useless. Harvard scientists created Slips (slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces), which REPELS BOTH WATER AND OIL, as well as bacteria, using the pitcher plant as their inspiration. “We don’t want buildup on surfaces for lots of reasons, whether it’s on furniture, or the sides of tanks, or on airplane wings,” Benyus says. “This is a material approach that could be applied in every industry.”