What is good design? Iconic works of architecture and technology, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes or an iPhone might come to mind first, but when it comes down to it, nothing can beat the evolutionary process of nature that has been refined for millennia.
In nature, energy and materials flow through ecosystems but efficiently cycle back in new forms, avoiding stagnation and producing waste. Learning from efficient, interconnected, and perfectly balanced ecosystems and incorporating aspects of the fully circular system that already exists in nature is called biomimicry or the practice of biomimetic design.
Here are five companies that are inspired by nature to redefine good design.
Biohm is a bio-based company that sells higher-performance, lower-cost, and more sustainable insulation material influenced by the root structure of mushrooms. The company uses a carbon-sequestering manufacturing process to take landfill-bound commercial and agricultural byproducts to grow mycelium for its own products. This London-based startup also uses food production byproducts to make a biodegradable alternative to wood-based sheet materials.
This company is developing a process that mimics photosynthesis to convert water and carbon dioxide into chemical energy without the use of heavy metals or heat.
The most common colorant is titanium dioxide which is a potential carcinogen and is sourced through titanium mining. This toxic white pigment is used in everything from toothpaste to painted traffic stripes you find on the road. To create a more sustainable white pigment, Impossible Materials is inspired by the bright white scales on the Cyphochilus beetle’s exoskeleton and successfully manufactured a safe, bio-based colorant from cellulose.
Industrial cooling towers at manufacturing sites or power plants go through gigantic quantities of water that end up leaving the facility as high-density water vapor. To address this inefficiency, Infinite Cooling mimics the Namib desert beetle that can harvest fog. They developed a product that can be added to cooling towers to save water and cut costs.
Spintext Engineering developed artificial spider silk to use in textiles, apparel, aerospace, and automotive industries. To manufacture the silk, the startup works at room temperatures and is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than the production of synthetic plastic fibers. To top it all off, no hazardous chemicals are used to make the silk and the only byproduct is water.