Drawing on billions of years of research and development to increase efficiency
A bird's nest is a structure made up of different strands, piled up in a fragile and chaotic manner. But what appears to be fragile is actually a protective, solid and insulating envelope that keeps the bird and clutch safe.
“Like birds, humans have the same primary instinct and need to protect their habitats and those who live in them. Industrialists may have created materials such as glass wool or rock wool, based on this principle by creating materials composed of fibers and air with sound and thermal insulating properties to protect the habitat,” suggests Armand Ajdari, Director of Research and Development at Saint-Gobain Group.”
“In the future, our "nest" will be designed using both biomimetic materials and human technology, such as smart windows, to stay in contact with the outside world while being thermally insulated and comfortably exposed to the natural light that’s so valuable to our physiology," adds Armand Ajdari.
Biomimetic materials we already use
We already use many materials inspired by living things. The Japanese high-speed train, the Shinkansen, has an aerodynamic nose directly based on a kingfisher's beak, for example. After observing that the bird could dive into water without creating much turbulence, engineers used the shape as a model for the nose of the train. The result? The train was more efficient when passing between two media of varying densities –on upon exiting a tunnel, for example – and produced less noise pollution.
Armand Ajdari gives a further example of a nature-inspired building material, Sheerfill architectural membrane. Like water pearls on a lotus leaf or duck feathers, this membrane is repelled by water – or “hydrophobic”– and flows in drops without penetrating the surface, staying intact.
“As part of our ceramics business, we are developing materials that are very obviously bio-inspired by shell mother-of-pearl, which is extremely hard and resistant to breakage. The materials we produce thus offer the same advantages as ceramics – elegance, scratch resistance, wave transparency, etc. – without the same vulnerability or impact, making it suitable for watches or portable electronic objects, for example," adds Armand Ajdari.