Richard Dawkins describes in the book Unweaving the Rainbow the relationship between biology and art. To understand science does not detract from the poetry of nature, and biomimicry can be described as one way of uncovering the poetry of nature. Nature and technology has often been described as opposite poles of a spectrum. Yet this division is breaking down, and aspects that can be regarded as dealing with beauty in nature can be used to design not only aesthetic looking technology but also highly useful technology.
Take for example, the irresistible beauty of butterfly wings – look at the colours of Morpho butterfly. The tiny wings are complex structures that reflect light in such a way that specific wavelengths interfere with each other to create intensely vivid colors one could only find in nature.
A security badge has been created inspired by the wings and the image is not a hologram, instead it consists of billions of nano-scale holes. The minuscule holes reflect and transmit light in a distinctive way making this badge difficult to copy, which is the main objective when designing a security badge. Yet the pattern is easy to recognize. No inks or dyes have been used in this badge, which has been developed by Nanotech Security Corp.
The KolourOptik nanotechnology, with a resolution of 50,000 dpi (dots per inch), has been developed and this technique may lead to new uses such as for credit cards and passports. In the future, even banknotes may be designed with this technique.
This example illustrates not only the power of exploring nature to develop innovations and gain inspiration for new ideas. It also illustrates how limited our search for inspiration actually is and how easy it is to judge research and ideas as having little value. For years, biology research into the structure on the gecko’s foot or the structural colours in butterflies was “ignored” by technologists. Today, an approach where experts from different fields are working together is increasingly becoming more common.
What ideas do you get when you think about the colours of butterfly wings and apply it to your area of expertise?
Photo Linden Gledhill, You can see more of his stunning macros here.