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I have been fascinated by the scent of earth after a nice trek up the mountain in the countryside. Monsoons make it even better! I’m sure you like it too. Hikes and treks give a sense of calmness away from all the hustle and bustle in the city. They rejuvenate our minds and give a sense of achievement or fulfillness . Those lush green trees with birds chirping, the clouds running far away into the vast open land, those faint mountain cliffs across the horizon, that beautiful fragrance of a fresh sapling, that sticky burr on your sock that itches a lot. Err. Wait, that didn’t quite paint a good picture. You’re right, it didn’t. Not for most of us. Those sticky and itchy burrs don’t end up in our beautiful hiking memories.
When George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, went to walk his dog in the countryside in 1948, he was overwhelmed by the strength those seeds had to attach themselves to foreign objects. During summers, he always had to spend time removing a wide variety of seeds from his clothes, socks, and his dog. The most difficult one out of those were spiny burrs since they had to be cut off. One day, his curiosity grew, and he looked at those seeds under the microscope. He found that those seeds had minuscule hooks on their surface which made sticking possible (P.S. these plants grow their footprint into different areas by using foreign objects as seed carrying media). He started research on a project that could use these spiky burrs. He designed a pair of surfaces, one of which had those hook-like burrs, and the other was a fibrous surface like his socks. He started a company and patented that design in his name. We now know that design as Velcro. It’s a combination of two words, velours (French for loop) and crochet (French for hook). Velcro is a company that patented this design in 1955, but we now use that name for the product itself, much like the company Xerox (it’s called photocopy, by the way).
Living organisms have evolved well-adapted structures and materials over geological time through natural selection. Biomimetics has given rise to new technologies inspired by biological solutions at macro and nanoscales. Humans have looked at nature for answers to problems throughout our existence. Understanding nature and its meticulous efforts in the form of evolution of different species that thrive in different environments has given us millions of years of research and development, as we can call it. Hence, it only makes sense to take advantage of such an invaluable resource to design better products and solve many of our problems.
Thank you, George De Mestral, for your curiosity, research, and contribution to humanity!
Biomimetics or biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature to solve complex human problems. The terms "biomimetics" and "biomimicry" derive from Ancient Greek: βίος (bios), life, and μίμησις (mīmēsis), imitation, from μιμεῖσθαι (mīmeisthai), to imitate, from μῖμος (mimos), actor. The field of Biomimicry, as it is today, is largely the contribution of Janine Benyus, a biologist, author, and an innovation consultant.
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Thank you so much for reading!