Articles, Blog

8 Useful Technologies Inspired by Nature

November 22, 2019

Humans are incredibly good at inventing stuff. I mean, just in the last 50 years, we’ve
come up with technology that’s totally transformed our world, like
cell phones and the internet. But natural selection has been solving problems
for billions of years, and it’s led to some super efficient solutions. So lots of researchers look to nature for
solutions that we might not have thought of on our own. Here are 8 of the coolest ideas we’ve borrowed. Mosquito bites are, like, unquestionably awful. But have you ever noticed you rarely feel
the actual bite? It’s the mosquito’s saliva that makes
you itch–and delivers diseases. But if there’s one good thing mosquitos
have ever done for humanity, it’s inspiring scientists to design less
painful injection needles. A mosquito’s proboscis, the part it bites
you with, is made up of seven different movable parts. Two of those parts hold hold onto your skin, while two more carefully saw through, making way for the “straw” part to dive
in and suck up your blood. I mean, it sounds horrible, but it is less
painful than just jabbing into your skin. So in 2008, a team of Indian and Japanese
scientists copied the size of a female mosquito proboscis to make a tiny needle with a tiny pump to
suck up blood. Its size, combined with the pump, makes getting
poked practically painless. Then, in 2011, a second group copied three of mosquitos’ seven moveable mouthparts
to make a motorized needle that pokes first with one tiny saw, then the
other, while vibrating slightly to ease into the
skin. That makes way for the sharp straw to draw
blood or deliver medicine. The serrated edges of the saws make less contact
with your skin than a regular hypodermic needle, so you feel
less pain. Another animal that’s helping with healthcare? The mussel. Mussels stick themselves to all kinds of underwater
surfaces, like rocks, piers, and boats, with glue that
they make. And not only is this glue waterproof it’ll actually set underwater, and repair
itself if the bond is broken. Researchers studying mussel glue have identified some of the specific proteins that make it
stick, and the research has inspired all kinds of
new glues, like a new waterproof, less-toxic glue for
plywood. And in 2014, a team at MIT genetically engineered
E. coli bacteria to produce some of the gluey proteins, combined with the proteins the bacteria use
to produce biofilm. They ended up with a glue that works underwater,
just like natural mussel glue. At this point the researchers can only make small amounts of the glue at a time, but the
stuff could eventually be used for everything from repairing ships to sticking people back together during surgery. There’s also a Danish team working on synthesizing
a glue based on mussel proteins one that does more than work underwater. It also repairs itself like mussel glue. Mussel glue contains an amino acid that bonds
very strongly to iron so strongly that even if the bond is broken,
it’ll re-form. The Danish researchers’ glue is designed
to do the same thing. The glue is still in development, but it’s the kind of thing that could also
someday be useful for surgeries or any other situation where you could use
a waterproof glue that can fix itself. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten
up-close-and-personal with a shark. But if you decided to pet one for some reason, you’d probably notice that its skin is sandpaper-rough. That’s because it’s covered in tiny, tooth-like
denticles, which help sharks both swim faster and stay
clean of parasites and bacteria. The denticles affect the flow of water around
the shark, which reduces the friction as it moves through
the water, allowing it to swim faster. The concept has inspired high-tech swimsuits, where the fabric is designed to have the same
kinds of tiny bumps. And researchers are also working on ways to
use shark skin’s adaptations to keep ships clean of clingers and hospitals
surfaces safer from germs. The microscopic surface of shark denticles
is covered in ridges whose shape makes it hard for parasites and
bacteria to get a grip. By copying that texture, one company created
a material that, compared to a smooth surface, reduces the presence of MRSA bacteria by 94%. Like sharks, whales are pretty great swimmers. And some whales have bumps that help them
out, too. Humpback whales zoom through the ocean hunting
schools of fish. But they can’t just scoop up big mouthfuls
like blue whales do with plankton, because fish tend to swim away when you try
to eat them. So humpbacks use a technique called bubble
net feeding. They use their giant flippers like airplane
wings to swim in tight circles while blowing bubbles, which concentrates
the school of fish so the whale can just swim up through the
middle and swallow them. That got scientists wondering why on earth
there are knobs and bumps, called tubercles, on the leading edge of humpback
whales’ flippers. It turns out that those knobs and bumps can
make lots of flipper or wing-like things more efficient by funneling
water or air into the troughs between the bumps on the
wing. Putting the bumps on wind turbine blades lets
them turn more wind energy into electric energy. And sticking them on airplane wings could
make them more efficient and less likely to stall. They could make surfboards more maneuverable, and fan blades quieter and more efficient. Researchers are trying them out on everything from submarines to kayak paddles. There’s another more wind turbine innovation
inspired by marine inhabitants. Specifically, it’s modeled after the way
fish form schools. Those tall wind turbines with blades known as horizontal axis wind turbines can’t be too close to each other, or they interfere with each others’ air
dynamics. The closer together they are, the more they
interfere, which limits the amount of energy they can
produce over a given area of space. But schooling fish swim very close together without interfering with the water around
each other, which made scientists wonder if fishy physics could be the key to compact wind farms. And it is. Vertical axis wind turbines are turbines with
shorter blades that spin around the pole. By themselves, these turbines generate less energy than horizontal axis
turbines. But they interact with the air in a way that’s
similar to how schooling fish interact with water, and researchers have used the similarities
to apply what they’ve seen in schooling fish to the
way the turbines are arranged. That means the turbines can be packed closer
together, which takes up less room so you can get more
electricity out of the space you have available. Coral are great builders. Tiny individual animals, called coral polyps, build up the structural skeleton of coral
reefs by producing calcium carbonate, otherwise known as limestone. And they use the carbon dioxide in ocean water as part of their building process. We humans like to build lots of things with
concrete. But unfortunately for us and coral reefs and
the whole planet, manufacturing cement, a main ingredient in
concrete, produces about 5% of all the carbon dioxide we pump into the environment every year. Which is … not great. But inspired by the way corals build their
skeletons, companies are working on ways to incorporate
carbon dioxide into building materials like cement and cement
board. Normally, making a ton of cement produces
about a ton of carbon dioxide. But using carbon dioxide in the cement itself
can reduce those emissions by anywhere from 5 to 40%. And—bonus!—some of these CO2-infused building
materials are stronger than the original recipe. Different companies have created versions
of this so-called “green concrete”, but right now they’re still working on developing
the process so it can be scaled up. Waterbears do it. Jericho roses do it. Even Brewer’s yeast does it. I’m talking about the ability to survive
your cells being dried out. Usually, cells don’t like to be dried out. They lodge their complaints by dying. Permanently. But some cells—like those of waterbears
and Jericho roses, aka “resurrection plants”—take it in
stride. To bring them back, you can just add water! Researchers studied this ability and found
that the secret seems to be a protective sugar called trehalose that allows cells to lose their water without
being damaged. One potentially life-saving use for trehalose
is to preserve vaccines, which otherwise have to be protected from
heat and drying out while they’re being transported. Every vaccine recommended by the World Health
Organization requires protection from heat, making hauling them long distances difficult
and expensive. Scientists have been working on this for over
20 years, and it seems to really work. One 2010 study, for example, used trehalose
to stabilize a flu vaccine so it would work with a microneedle that even someone with little or no training
could use to deliver the vaccine. The researchers found that when they included
trehalose to stabilize the vaccine, it was more effective
at protecting against the flu. Velcro might seem like a simple way to stick
things together. But it actually wasn’t invented until the
1940s, when a Swiss engineer named George de Mestral went on a hunting
trip with his dog, and burrs from burdock plants got stuck to
his pants and to his dog’s fur. Sticky burrs have probably been annoying people
for thousands of years, but they gave de Mestral an idea: What if he could use burrs to create a sort
of reusable adhesive? He decided to check out the burrs under a
microscope, and he saw that they were covered in tiny
hooks, which explained why they were so great at
sticking to stuff. He recreated the hooked ends of the burrs, which became the rough half of the Velcro. The other, softer side was made of loops for
the hooks to grab onto. By the late 1950s, he’d patented and started
selling his invention. And then NASA started buying it. They knew things would just sort of float
around in orbit, and astronauts needed an easy way to stick
things to walls so they’d stay put, but could also be easily detached. Velcro was the perfect solution. People also started using it for things like
sports equipment and blood pressure cuffs. And, of course, awesome sneakers. All because de Mestral was inspired by those
annoying, sticky burrs. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow, which was brought to you by our patrons on
Patreon. If you want to help support this show, just
go to And don’t forget to go to
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  • Reply Nejla Kambič April 13, 2017 at 5:53 am

    this is one of my favourite episodes! ?

  • Reply Craig Mooring April 13, 2017 at 6:06 am

    No.8 is the cover story, but the truth is that T'Paul's mom crashed on Earth and had to survive in secret until they were found and rescued. Meanwhile, she had become friends with a deserving boy who needed money college, and she sold the secret to the "inventor" to finance the kid's education after she left. I thought everybody knew that. ;^)

  • Reply eustagoesout April 13, 2017 at 6:08 am


  • Reply Bunny Clause April 13, 2017 at 6:22 am

    "making fans quieter" nah i want loud why else would i want a fan i cool me off i can not sleep without a fan

  • Reply 00 2B April 13, 2017 at 6:40 am

    I have a friend that was recently released from prison after a 17 year stent. could you make a video for the best inventions on the last 17 years. thanx

  • Reply llama Machine April 13, 2017 at 7:18 am

    "They lodge their complaints by dying" hehehe

  • Reply Von Neely April 13, 2017 at 7:19 am

    This is the only channel where a list-title doesn't make me automatically hit the ignore button.

  • Reply Jackie Winters April 13, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Benjamin H April 13, 2017 at 7:28 am

    great video !

    For the concrete, absorbing CO2 is indeed improving the compacity and thus the compressive strength but it also reduces the PH of it, then the steel inside is no longer passivated, it corrodes and the concrete explodes (rust takes more volume than steel) so I wonder how they are gonna use it for reinforced concrete, it's a big problem but I guess if you use polymer fibers to reinforce the concrete then you don't have to worry about the PH drop.

  • Reply Jothunheim April 13, 2017 at 7:38 am

    great video, very informative!

  • Reply io qai April 13, 2017 at 7:44 am

    everything we copied by nature

  • Reply Revazide April 13, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Video Topic Idea:
    Why do we find this beautiful?

    It doesn't seem to have any biological benefit to enjoy a good view. Or to stare up at the night sky. I can sort of understand it when finding another person beautiful, but beautiful and attractive isn't always the same. So why do we do it?

  • Reply Deez nuts April 13, 2017 at 9:34 am

    I have a question why does your poo sting when you have the runs

  • Reply INTPeanut April 13, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Bemused me that at the start was the claim about inventing stuff over the past 50 years. Sure, there've been developments and discoveries, but they've been slowing over the decades due to patents holding back development, not increasing development.
    If we move from the competitive social current employed to a collaborative model in our lifetime, I reckon you'll see our technological development increase dramatically (and hopefully be more beneficial to us rather than just incremental updates to keep profits up)

  • Reply mpye April 13, 2017 at 10:22 am

    nature found this all by pure random chanche.

  • Reply Sam Thompson April 13, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Isn't copper more affective at preventing bacteria building up???

  • Reply DoubleRu April 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

    But I thought velcro was given to us by aliens?

  • Reply Banana Senpai April 13, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Sticking people back together hahahahah

  • Reply Med Help April 13, 2017 at 11:41 am

    We're not stealing. It's called borrowing

  • Reply Taylor Hood April 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Is this not biomimetics?

  • Reply Nathan Prindler April 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Lesson: God is the greatest inventor. 🙂

  • Reply Big ball62 April 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I focking love nature

  • Reply Big ball62 April 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Do you like the smell of your own shit? I do

  • Reply Dennis V April 13, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    fishy physics…

  • Reply The World Inside April 13, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    I love science!

  • Reply Anish Mulchandani April 13, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    This makes me wonder how over the years we, humans have used our intelligence to improve our living and revolutionised the world with innovations!

  • Reply David Groenteman April 13, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I live Michael's presenting skills. His voice is as smooth as a baby's bottom.

  • Reply Brendan April 13, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    wouldn't serrated edges on a needle make it harder to get out? like a porcupines quill?

  • Reply Akram Safirul April 13, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    ouch the mosquito-inspired needle illustration made it look scarier than the normal needle 🙁

  • Reply BEYOND KOMMON SENSE April 13, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    guys I have created a new channel
    I have 2 videos but I am making more
    plzz support me

  • Reply MrMentalz2 April 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Why is their velcro around my anus?

  • Reply Michael Farrell April 13, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    All technologies are inspired by nature

  • Reply animist channel April 13, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Okay, I'll say it: ALL useful technologies are inspired by Nature, because working in nature is what makes them useful… You are in no way separate from your world.

  • Reply THE FOX April 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I heard that the guy who invented the chainsaw was inspired by a type of worm that burrows into wood.

  • Reply VEE727 April 13, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    They lodge their complaints by dying ?

  • Reply Shahzaib Khan April 13, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Listening to Michael is so soothing

  • Reply Donald Hall April 13, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    I don't usually comment, but I wanted to let you all know that I love SciShow! You guys rock out loud!

  • Reply Tfin April 13, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    So, the best possible result of the cement innovation is a CO₂ reduction from 5% to… well, if it is reduced by 40%, that's a 2% reduction in total production, so… 3 is still roughly 3% of 98, so 3%.

  • Reply Sam A April 13, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Noctua computer fans use bumps on the blades that supposedly delay flow separation. not exactly like the whale ones but they are some of the quietest fans I've ever used for the amount of air they move. they also have serrated edges on the supports.

  • Reply Legitimatewaffle April 13, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    What the heck is morning taste

  • Reply ZeroKage69 April 13, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Really? No immature comments on the word denticles? Fine…

    Denticles… teehee…

  • Reply romi hazom April 13, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    why plants effect the direction of light rays

  • Reply Carlson Bench April 13, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    ? for SciShow intro ??? at Full volume ?

  • Reply sheller153 April 13, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    How do we make a less painful needle? Add saws and vibration that'll be less painful.

  • Reply Shallot April 13, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    I read about something like this on my

    P S A T

  • Reply Daakkuu Sama April 13, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    It is intersting how most of the things here are inspired by marine creators

  • Reply Deus Vult April 14, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Ah, I could really use a Humpback whale fin for my sick new gaming PC.

  • Reply coredumperror April 14, 2017 at 6:59 am

    I've worked with the scientist who created those fish-inspired wind turbines! It's such cool tech!

  • Reply Bird_Dog April 14, 2017 at 7:28 am

    "making fans quieter"
    The only way to acompish that is by surgicaly removing their vocal cords…

  • Reply CheeseTaterson April 14, 2017 at 8:25 am

    A question I've always had regarding the safety of velcro in space: I'd think that, each time the velcro would be pulled apart, fibers from the soft end would get ripped apart and become airborne causing potential problems with equipment or the air. Or, would the fibers be so few in number that filtration systems would be able to whisk them away with minimal effort?

  • Reply Mihir M April 14, 2017 at 9:55 am

    where is hank?

  • Reply Darius Szablowski April 14, 2017 at 11:05 am

    It's always inspiring to watch your videos ?

  • Reply Baron Frazworth April 14, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    We have so much to learn from nature, which is why it is very important to protect it. That, along with us being dependent on it, of course.

  • Reply Lenz2010 April 14, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    ALL useful technologies are inspired by Nature, because working in
    nature is what makes them useful… You are in no way separate from
    your world.

  • Reply Anne April 15, 2017 at 12:24 am

    Super interesting episode, and Michael is a great presenter.

  • Reply JVee Veneracion April 15, 2017 at 9:52 am

    i thought velcro was secretly given to us by the Vulcans

  • Reply Russell Bowley April 16, 2017 at 12:46 am


  • Reply Dah Dream April 16, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Michael, you're one sexy person.

  • Reply Patrick McCurry April 17, 2017 at 5:30 am

    I never itched from mosquito bites, during or after. Oregonian species may just be less likely to cause irritations.

  • Reply The Viewing List April 17, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Informative as always. I love it!

  • Reply Sad Brad April 17, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    #1 made me feel sick. I'll never look at Construction class the same way again.

  • Reply Guru April 17, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    I'm so happy that these series state their sources. Thanks SciShow!

  • Reply Lee Stuurmans April 18, 2017 at 1:26 am

    super good episode!

  • Reply cretin76 April 19, 2017 at 6:11 am

    This is taken directly from a TED talk on biomimicry. But the presentation here is a lot snappier so that is good.

  • Reply seasong April 19, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    If these technologies would be really that usefull, we would actually use them…

  • Reply RebelBeamMaster X84 April 20, 2017 at 12:10 am

    Could trehalose be used for "cryogenic" storage of humans for long space travel?

  • Reply coughdrop01 April 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    oh man, I started feel woozy with all those needle descriptions.

  • Reply Martin Kn. April 22, 2017 at 11:21 am

    6:33 I have had a problem with dry jokes, I'll lodge a complaint by dying.

  • Reply stabulous Koda April 24, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    that glue would be great in battle

  • Reply Kyle Kloepping April 25, 2017 at 7:05 am

    So could I eat a bunch of trehalose then die and when I get buried and it rains I come back to life? I have questions and ideas

  • Reply Dr. Waffles May 6, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    fishy physics huehuehue

  • Reply Michael D'Augustine May 9, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    L-3,4-Dihydroxyphenylalanine is the biological precursor to Dopamine and is also a Parkinson's drug.

  • Reply Josh Hayes May 18, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Dying permanently vs… dying temporarily?

  • Reply Chelsea Shurmantine May 29, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    The shark skin MRSA resistant surface is awesome!

  • Reply Omar Omax July 4, 2017 at 12:50 am

    i think every goddamn invention we did eve,is an inspiration from nature ,in a way or another…

  • Reply rAyZoR rAy August 30, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I remeber my now wife and i getting back to nature wiv a summer romp. I ended up with 120 insect bites, she had 170, We never felt them at the time but had 2stayin 4a week,on the plus side we grew sooo close, thanks mosquitos . . Be Warned, we look back un laugh but at the time it was HELL.

  • Reply rAyZoR rAy August 30, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    . . . Edit . . When i say never felt them at the time i meant at the time we were in the woods, The next day HELL started 4us.

  • Reply Rodrigo Bragança October 31, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    evolution right? yeah.

  • Reply 7 DusK December 10, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Could you be any more robotic while making it more obvious that your reading a script? Please oh please can you!

  • Reply Ana Reza December 14, 2017 at 10:51 am

    I love how innovators are inspired by things that are actually very common yet many people don't take notice

  • Reply Andy Shay December 19, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    I feel the actual bite every time.

  • Reply Erik Valiulis February 13, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    This why I love biomimicry!!!

  • Reply Abdale Assal February 24, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    This shows that there is God

  • Reply JoeDoe_ Outdoors February 27, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Hi awesome page ☺ Keep it up!

  • Reply Pedro Antonio Sanchez April 20, 2018 at 3:56 am

    Interesting ?

  • Reply Mike McKenzie April 20, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    FYI, the soft side of Velcro is the hooks, the rough side is the loops.

  • Reply saurabh freak April 27, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Do more of this video

  • Reply TheSassi42 May 4, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    Please use your bike and help keeping nature diverse.

  • Reply izdraw bad June 11, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    Why do u think its evolution its just a theory

  • Reply Mike Davison June 12, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    LOL!! "Usually, cells don't like being dried out. They lodge their complaints by dying. Permanently."

    You guys have THE BEST script writers! Winifred Kehl, you beauty!

  • Reply OskarPlaysRoblox December 5, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    my 7 year old sister got lost in this video, but I think it’s great!

  • Reply Eddie Sandoval January 6, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Natural Selection cannot see into the future. Natural Selection cannot plan. Natural Selection only eliminates DNA that does not provide a workable solution. You are not an evolutionary mutant…U R designed my the master designer.

  • Reply Manj J May 9, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    "Usually, cells don't like being dried out. They lodge their complaints by dying. Permanently." I love this quote so much XD

  • Reply Newt Scamander May 15, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    1:25 I will not say it
    I will not say it
    I will not say it
    I will not say it
    I will not say it
    I will not say it


  • Reply Corey Pattison May 27, 2019 at 1:11 am

    Three needles hurt less than one needle. Hmm

  • Reply AlphaAlfred July 30, 2019 at 7:20 am

    When I was little the first time we brought my step sister up state into the wilderness she got one of those sticky burs on her and she thought it was an animal biting her so she screamed “it’s biting me” and my dad heard that and assumed it was a snake or something which lead to him busting his ass while running which was hilarious cause I just got to watch as everyone screamed over a plant ?

  • Reply john ogden August 3, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Out of E coli interesting

  • Reply Deanna W August 14, 2019 at 6:08 am

    But sharks are silky smooth =o

  • Reply Jordan Olsen August 16, 2019 at 4:53 am

    Humans are ridiculously smart wtf

  • Reply Augusto Dargence September 12, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Q mierda de video

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