What is Biomimetics (Bionics)? - Mechatronics Engineering

What is Biomimetics (Bionics)?

What is Biomimetics (Bionics)?

A biomimetics hand could transform the lives of amputees worldwide, and help them to regain independence and control in their everyday lives. The bionic hand should be designed to handle almost anything that you need to do during an average day. It is like eating meals and carrying bags, opening doors, switching on lights and typing. Achieving such opportunities requires the use of biomimetics and mechatronic systems.

What is mechatronics you can read here. Biomimetics (biomimicry) is the field of science which helps to create bio-inspired technologies [1, 2]. It is the emulation of the models, systems and elements of the nature. The word biomimetics appeared for the first time in 1950s. The term biomimetics was introduced by Otto H. Schmitt. He applied his multi-disciplinary talents as an undergraduate and graduate student at Washington University. He worked there in three departments: physics, zoology, and mathematics. His doctoral research was an attempt to produce a physical device that explicitly mimicked the electrical action of a nerve. Finally Schmitt designed and built an electronic device to mimic the propagation of action potentials along nerve fibers. His most famous invention, "the Schmitt trigger", had its basis in Schmitts' doctoral research. By 1957, he had come to perceive what he would later in 1969 [3] label biomimetics, as a disregarded - but highly significant - converse of the standard view of biophysics:

Biophysics is not so much a subject matter as it is a point of view. It is an approach to problems of biological science utilizing the theory and technology of the physical sciences. Conversely, biophysics is also a biologist's approach to problems of physical science and engineering, although this aspect has largely been neglected.

Biomimetics is a closely related field to bionics, sometimes there words are treat as the synonyms. The word bionics was coined by Jack Steele of the US Air Force in 1960 at a meeting at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. From the begining the bionics whas the science of systems which have function similar and copied from nature Bionic systems represent characteristics of natural systems. In 1963 Otto Schmitt at a meeting at Dayton said:

Let us consider what bionics has come to mean operationally and what it or some word like it (I prefer biomimetics) ought to mean in order to make good use of the technical skills of scientists specializing, or rather, I should say, despecializing into this area of research. Presumably our common interest is in examining biological phenomenology in the hope of gaining insight and inspiration for developing physical or composite bio-physical systems in the image of life.

The biomechatronic systems mostly are a body parts like legs or arms. It can be simple and straightforward and get the job done, like two- or three-finger grippers. Or it can be very complex like hands with four fingers and a thumb that are designed to closely mimic human hands. Bionics designer Hugh Herr said:

Humans will soon have new bodies that forever blur the line between the natural and synthetic worlds.
During the twilight years of this century, I believe humans will be unrecognizable in morphology and dynamics from what we are today.

A bionic revolution is brewing, as recent advancements in bioengineering have brought about scientific breakthroughs in rehabilitation for people with disabilities. The world of prosthetics grows faster every year and artificial limbs are designed to be more and more effective. This is the biomechatronic way to help amputees and sufferers of paralysis. The most cutting edge research is happening inside the human brain, where implanted technology allows people to communicate directly with computers, using their thoughts. 

[1] Jon M. Harkness: In Appreciation A Lifetime of Connections: Otto Herbert Schmitt, 1913 - 1998, Physics in Perspective volume 4, pages 456–490(2002)
[2] Julian F.V Vincent, Olga A Bogatyreva, Nikolaj R Bogatyrev, Adrian Bowyer, Anja-Karina Pahl: Biomimetics: its practice and theory, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2006
[3] Schmitt O. Some interesting and useful biomimetic transforms.In Third Int. Biophysics Congressp., 1969, 297.

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