Living nature offers plenty of ‘inventions’ that could serve as prototypes for new technical products. It is the task of biomimetics to abstract these ideas from nature and to implement them technically. But how exactly does that work? And can biomimetics be considered an independent scientific discipline? A new research project at the universities of Tübingen and Rostock is investigating these questions. It is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with around 500,000 euros.
From bird flight to gecko feet, humans have always been inspired by nature for technical developments. In the 20th century, this has been elevated to a programme under the name of biomimetics, and it is hard to imagine our everyday life without biomimetic products such as the Velcro fastener. From the perspective of the philosophy of science, however, biomimetics has not yet been explored. Manfred Drack from the Institute for Evolution and Ecology at the University of Tübingen and Ludger Jansen from the Institute for Philosophy at the University of Rostock address this research gap and investigate the question of how exactly the transfer of biological knowledge to technical developments works. The researchers will examine selected biomimetic development projects to see whether common methods and a uniform subject matter can be found in them, which would justify conceiving biomimetics as a unified scientific discipline. In addition, the basic categories identified in the research processes will be formalised based on a philosophical analysis so that a computer can process them.
The source of the illustration is: Drack M, Betz O. 2022. A technomorphic conceptualisation of biological
'constructions' and their evolution. Vertebrate Zoology 72: 839–855. (DOI: 10.3897/vz.72.e86968)
Website of the project: https://biomimetics.hypotheses.org/