In 1941, George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, noticed his dog was covered in burrs after a long walk in the Alps. Fourteen years and many microscope slides later, de Mestral patented the hooked design for Velcro, inspired by the burrs. Velcro is probably the most well-known form of biomimicry, or human-made designs based on natural structures.
By Rebecca Flowers | MOTHERBOARD
“We have been always amazed by the power of nature to create sophisticated structures using [the] most elegant way,” Ming Yang, the senior author on this study and professor at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, told me via email. Yang and his co-authors modeled the material they developed after human skin, setting out to create a polymer that is both self-healing and hard.
When the epidermis, the thick outermost layer of skin, is damaged, cells from the softer layer underneath migrate to the top to heal the injury, hardening and becoming dead cells to protect the live layers beneath.