Biomimicry

Biomimicry

Biomimicry

I want to be an inventor, and biomimicry is the area that interests me most. Like most kids I grew up loving animals, but I also love science and tech. Eventually I started realizing how much these worlds have to do with each other. Mother nature is the world’s oldest laboratory and the creatures surviving her billions of years of tests are still with us today. I like studying animals and their strategies much the same way the Wright brothers loved studying birds before they built the first successful airplane. Scientists and inventors collaborate in this space and some of the animals they have studied include the golden orb weaver spider, the peregrine falcon, the gecko, the woodpecker, the elephant, the beaver… these are among nature’s best engineers so of course we want to study them before starting our own engineering. Recently I’ve become most interested in the glasswing butterfly and its camouflaging power of  translucencePhotonics explains how butterfly wings look transparent and how scientists are using this creating a real invisibility cloak. Butterfly wings are made of chitin which has alternating layers that take advantage of how light mixes, bounces and bends, channeling the colors around it to the back of the wing and making it look transparent. Scientists are creating meta-materials that copy this process found in nature. These super fabrics bend light much like the glass wing butterflies do it in nature. Animals survive by being good at finding food and not becoming food for something else. Camouflage is how they do this and nothing is better at this than the glasswing butterfly. The light is scattered off their wings because of the random height of the nanostructures on the wing. Almost all light passes through the wing instead of bouncing back to your eye. Let me explain: Light travels as a wave and has high parts and low parts, and if they hit a wall, they bounce back, which is called reflection. When we look in a mirror, or look at each other, that light bounces into our eyes. Light also bends if it travels through different materials before it hits your eye. Light doesn’t always travel a straight path and this is called refraction. Mixing of light waves also occurs and is called interference. These combined waves are sometime bigger than the original waves, at other points the waves cancel each other out. To create an invisibility cloak you have to use these principals of light to create a kind of camouflage. If you can channel light from what’s behind you and around you, that is all the eye can see. You’ve cloaked yourself in the reflection of what’s around you.

-Tripp