Biomimicry 3.8 takes the best of na­ture and makes it bet­ter

JA­NINE BENYUS’s the­ory of evo­lu­tion By Jessie Scan­lon

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - NEWS -

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.”

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