Biomimicry: Improving Aerodynamics in Aviation

Biomimicry. It is defined as “the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes”. I had not previously heard the technical term for this concept until recently but was aware of the general notion as aviation and the very idea of flight was inspired by birds.

After viewing Janine Benyus’ TED Talks on Biomimicry, I explored the website she mentioned in her “Biomimicry in Action” called I came across an interesting short article that presented a compelling new design of an airfoil (a structure on aircraft wings to induce drag without losing too much lift) in a turbine type aircraft engine based off of a seal whisker, of all things. This design helps decrease the chance of the air coming away from the airfoil at high angles (stall), thus allowing the blade to have functionality at higher angles with more controlled airflows, creating more efficient and safer operating ranges. Although aircraft are generally part of the pollution problem, they are not going away anytime soon. A good starting point for making the machines more efficient, therefore using less fuel, is to perfect the aerodynamics. In fact, Airbus has a section of their website dedicated to biomimicry and how they incorporate these concepts into their designs. The best role model and source of inspiration is nature.

Comparison of sea lion and harbor seal whiskers.
sample airfoils
Airfoil blades

Sources: Janine Benyus: Mimicry in Action

Janine Benyus at the Circular Economy 100 Annual Summit

Janine Benyus:12 Sustainable Design Ideas from Nature

Seal Blade Low Drag Airfoil

AIRBUS Biomimicry


2 thoughts on “Biomimicry: Improving Aerodynamics in Aviation

  1. I feel that being efficient is one of the most important things we can do to reduce the amount of pollution we output. As long as we do not have a replacement for flying, we have to be as economical with our resources as possible. Moving from that, I think it is amazing how much our technology is able to analyze and copy that of just a seal whisker. This only shows how we can learn from our environment, and eventually reach absolute efficiency.


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