You might have heard about the story of how Velcro was invented. George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, was fascinated at the burrs which kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur when walking in the Alps. Taking a closer look at the mechanics behind the burrs, he developed the famous hook and loop design. And the rest was history. That scenario is played out again and again in the world of technology. It seems nature is the best inventor, and we humans are merely playing catch up. Some of the most intriguing naturally inspired innovations come from sea creatures. Here are just a few:
Everyone who has ever tried to superglue something that is exposed to the elements knows that water pretty much ruins it. Even the toughest, strongest glues do not stand up to moisture. So how the heck do mussels stay attached to rocks even with strong storm surges crashing on them relentlessly? Scientists recently discovered their secret, and in the process invented probably the toughest glue ever made by man. It’s a bold claim, but the science behind it is irrefutable.
Could you imagine seeing a navy warship with whiskers attached to the hull? If military researchers have their way, we might just witness such an unlikely sight. As scientists already know, when a tasty fish swims by, a seal can detect its presence by utilizing sensory organs in its whiskers. Not only that, the seal can detect what type of fish it is, where it’s going and how fast. Scientists want this technology for the Navy, and they are reverse engineering seal whiskers to do just that.
Ever seen a jellyfish that can change its coloring to match its environment? That type of biological camouflage is essential for the survival of some species. Soon it may be essential tools for spies and smartphones. Using the stretchy skin, engineers have found a way to make messages disappear permanently. Also, because of the light refraction abilities, the material would work great for reducing glare on smartphone screens. Something tells me that won’t be the end of the innovations from jellyfish skin.
Red tides are a mystery that science has been pondering for quite some time. How does it form and why? Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego decided they would find out. To do so, they knew they had to mimic nature. More precisely, they knew they had to develop some synthetic plankton, the organisms that make up red tides. And that’s just what they did. By inventing and deploying an army of fake plankton, the scientists have been able to learn much about ocean currents, opening up a whole new realm of ocean exploration.