Inspired by Insects: 10 Creepy-Crawly Biomimetic Designs

Buzzing, flapping, flying and crawling, insects and arachnids of all shapes and sizes surround us day and night in numbers that are almost too frightening to contemplate. But such creepy-crawlies not only have an important place in the world – they also provide an incredible source of inspiration for everything from the display screens on our e-readers to fog-collecting capabilities of sustainable buildings. These 10 biomimetic designs take cues from butterflies, beetles, dragonflies and bees to bring our own creations closer to the perfection of nature.

Mirasol Display Mimics a Butterfly Wing

(image via: businessweek)

A low-energy alternative to electronic ink for gadgets like cell phones, tablets and e-readers, the Mirasol low-voltage display screen takes a cue from butterfly wings, which are translucent membranes covered in  microscopic light-reflecting scales. As light passes through a butterfly wing and the wing flaps, sunlight refracts and different wavelengths, making a wing look iridescent. The Mirasol screen achieves a similar effect with two glass panels and tiny mirrors that reflect colors onto the screen. This means that the screen delivers bright color in strong light, making it easier to see in the sun, using natural light from the environment rather than artificial lighting.

Beetle-Inspired Water Bottle

(image via: inhabitat)

In water-starved areas of the world, nothing short of ingenuity will help ensure clean, safe drinking water for all – and one designer has an idea that could harvest water from fog. The design for the Dew Bank Bottle by Pak Kitae mimics the way the “fog beetle” collects dew droplets in ridges on its back. The bottle has a stainless steel dome that becomes cooler than the air in the morning, forming dew drops that slide down into a collection channel. The bottle can harvest about a cup of water at a time, which may not seem like much to us, but could mean the difference between life and death for some.

Water Theater Gathers Fog Like a Beetle

(image via: grimshaw architects)

It’s like the beetle water bottle, times a thousand: an amphitheater that pulls water in from the air in a seaside location, effectively distilling seawater. The Water Theater, designed specifically for the Las Palmas development in the Canary Islands, uses the same beetle for inspiration. The theater uses the fresh water that it produces to irrigate crops and provide cool relief in this hot desert climate.

Dragonfly Vertical Farm Concept

(images via: archdaily)

The metal and glass ‘wings’ of Vincent Callebaut’s stunning vertical farm concept for New York City were modeled directly on the exoskeleton of a dragonfly, housing plant and animal farms that make use of plentiful sunlight and air flow high in the sky. The 132-story complex, imagined for the south end of Roosevelt Island, also includes housing and work space.

Photonic Beetles Inspire Faster Computers

(image via: physorg

From any angle, despite their iridescence, the scales of the Brazilian beetle L. augustus always look like the same shade of green. That may not sound impressive, but for scientists engineering optical computer chips, it could be the key to a problem that’s been holding them back for years. The scales each contain a crystal with a honeycomb-like interior with a structure that could provide a model for the photonic crystals needed in optical computing.

Zimbabwe Building Modeled on Termite Mound

(image via: inhabitat)

How do you keep a mid-rise building in the middle of Zimbabwe cool without air conditioning or a big energy bill? By modeling it after self-cooling termite mounds. African termites maintain a steady temperature in their mounds by constantly opening and closing heating and cooling vents throughout the mound, sucking in air at the base and pulling it up the peak. Eastgate Centre has a ventilation system that operates in a similar way, providing a sustainable and cost-effective way to maintain a comfortable inside temperature.

Honeycomb Tires Can’t Go Flat

(image via: world car fans)

The tire of the future doesn’t need air, therefore it can’t go flat – which could be a real lifesaver for members of the military. Responding to the government’s need for tires that can support lots of weight, survive an IED attack and still speed away at up to 50mph, developers Resilient Technologies and Wisconsin-Madison’s Polymer Engineering Center realized that nothing was more perfect than Mother Nature’s design of the honeycomb. The series of hexagon shapes is extremely strong, and distributes weight evenly for a smooth ride.

Butterfly Wings Could Lead to Better Solar Panels

(image via: treehugger)

In 2009, scientists discovered that butterfly wings have scales that act as natural solar collectors, which absorb light in an ultra-efficient way. Using a natural butterfly wing as a template, researchers were able to improve light-harvesting in dye-sensitive solar cells, which have the highest light-conversion efficiencies among all solar cells. Best of all, this method of producing solar collectors is more cost-effective than others that were previously used.

Honeycomb Housing Complex in Slovenia

(images via: ofis)

Drawing inspiration from beehives, architecture firm Ofis designed this low-income housing complex in Slovenia for maximum privacy and visual interest. The staggered windows, with their colorful shades, also offer solar shading and ventilation. The overall ‘artificial honeycomb’ effect gives the building a much more interesting look  than would a conventional window layout.

Mondo Spider Electric Vehicle

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There’s never any shortage of incredible art cars and other vehicles at the annual Burning Man festival, but one stands out for its biomimetic design: Mondo Spider. This eight-legged, one-man vehicle moves via hydraulics and though it won’t get the driver anywhere fast – it tops out at “brisk walking speed” – it’s fascinating to watch in action.

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