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Biomimicry in Textiles : Inspiration from Nature

Published: November 1, 2020
Author: pprvallv


The thing that truly sets natural materials apart from manmade materials is that natural materials are grown, whereas manmade materials are manufactured. The issue with manufacturing is that the conditions used to create new materials can be extremely harsh and include using high temperatures and pressures—as well as toxic chemicals that may release large amounts of pollutants. In nature, on the other hand, animals and plants develop their materials at ambient temperature and pressure, and make them within a carefully balanced ecosystem, so all by-products are recycled efficiently. After 3·8 billion years of evolution and natural selection, nature has created biological systems which provide so many natural and optimised biological structures with unique properties and functions to serve some technological solutions.[1] Not only are most biomimetic principles naturally sustainable, but scientists are also beginning to look towards nature for innovative and sustainable design methods that can be applied to other areas of manufacturing. A downturn was also witnessed in the technological field in the 1950s, confronting the possibility that computers and machinery no longer respond to necessities. The resources used were accused of low usability, high volume, excessive difficulty, and inadequate usefulness, whatever their area of use.The lack of satisfaction has proven fruitful in many ways, pushing scientific advancement. This may also be found in the field of biomimetics, which began in the 1990s with a substantial rise.[2]


Introduction to Biomimicry

The term “Biomimetics” is composed of two words derived from Greek: “bios” (meaning “life”) and “mimesis” (meaning “to imitate”).The meaning of biomimicry is copying, adaptation or derivation from biology. Biomimetics can be defined as ‘the study of the formation, structure or function of biologically produced substances and materials (as enzymes or silk) and biological mechanisms and processes (as protein synthesis or photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of synthesizing similar products by artificial mechanisms which mimic natural ones’[4] 

Nature is the chief mentor for artistic and technical creation for humans. It offers many exceptional instances of developments that can be incorporated in the area of design and textiles.In order to increase the general health and well-being of the end user and his climate, this transition would incorporate biomimicry as a best practise for earth conservation. Nature has engineered biological materials from the macro to nanoscale. Natural biological systems are a constant source of inspiration for scientists and engineers in solving a variety of technical challenges.[3]  The hook-and-loop fastener was invented by Swiss engineer, Georges de Mestral in 1941 . There is a story behind this invention.He was returning home for a walk with his dog in the Alps and found that the dog’s fur was covered with cockleburs.[1] After studying their mechanism of attachment, he was inspired to create hook-and-loop fasteners which closely mimicked this property.

 Adapting and using the fruits of biomimicry in textiles has given solutions to many problems including Self cleaning, self repair, energy conservation, drag reduction, dry adhesion, superhydrophobicity are a few solutions that are provided by biomimicry. Bio-inspired textiles are a result of fabrics that have functional surfaces, structural colors, self-healing, and thermal insulation properties.

Types of Functional Surfaces

Functional Surfaces Natural surfaces display a huge range of useful properties that have been studied with the aim of understanding the phenomena behind them and using these principles to improve specific properties of current man made surfaces. In particular, nature has increased our textile capacity in terms of adhesion,superhydrophobicity, reduced drag, and sustainability.

Nature’s color has three main sources: pigments, structural colors and bioluminescence. Structural color is a special one, which is the color produced by micro- or nano-structures, and is bright and dazzling. Structural color is frequently seen in butterflies,       beetles , and sea animals etc. Among them, the most widely cited examples are the Morpho butterflies, living in South America. The coloration of the butterfly wings exhibits a number unique features such as broad blue iridescence, brilliant luster, speckle-like aspects, high resistance to discoloration, high sensitivity to environment.[6]

Geckos are small animals that are able to seemingly stick to surfaces, and have even been known to climb upside down along completely flat surfaces.5 Biologists discovered that the feet of a gecko are covered in a special hierarchical structure of “hairs.” [5] The tiny hair-like structures (or, setae) are covered in even smaller hair-like structures (called spatulae), which enables the foot to create a very intimate contact with   a surface, allowing   large forces (weak intramolecular forces) to be generated. These forces, although considered a weak force, are used by geckos to dry-adhere to surfaces by ensuring that the surface of their feet can create an almost perfect contact area with the material that they are moving along. This discovery led to a new generation of bioinspired adhesives that have superior properties over conventional “gooey” adhesives. [5, 4] These novel materials can adhere to surfaces firmly, yet still maintain elastic stiffness to support large weights. In addition, the adhesive can be easily removed from the surface and reused.

Drag is a retardation force that makes it more difficult for objects to move through fluids such as air or water. Most animals have evolved to move very efficiently, and nature has found ways to naturally reduce the drag of bodies moving through air and water. Sharks are a great example of highly evolved aerodynamics; their bodies are covered in tiny tooth-like scales (or, denticles) that are shaped and aligned perfectly to channel water and reduce friction between the scales and the surrounding water.[2] Recent studies have focused on how the size and shape of the denticles affect the forces that act on the moving body. In one or more silk glands located in the abdomen of the spider, spider silk is produced. A duct of a certain length and form connects each gland to specialised external spinnerets on the abdomen. This duct is exceptionally long in the case of dragline silk. [7]

In contrast to the super adhesive gecko feet, many natural surfaces are designed to prevent  adhesion. Most plants have hydrophobic coatings (cuticles) on their leaves, which discourages any adhesion. [5] There are also some plants, such as the lotus plant (Nelumbo nucifera), that  exhibit superhydrophobicity, causing the surface to strongly repel water and, hence, to be self-cleaning. Most recently, researchers have been looking at how these hierarchical surface structures can be used to create self-cleaning cottons and anti-bacterial coatings.[1] The ability to induce hydrophobicity in cotton, a traditionally hydrophilic material, has vast implications, including alkali and acid resistant safety materials, extra durable materials, and materials used for filtering water and oil.

Although the lotus-inspired materials have received the most publicity, research groups from around the world are looking at several hydrophobic materials to glean inspiration from them. From duck feathers and water insects’ legs, to butterfly wings, to a range of plant leaves, scientists are increasingly looking towards nature for inspiration. [5, 9]


Biomimicry research can be utilized in a wide range of areas, from looking at how spiders spin their silk to develop stronger, lightweight textiles, to considering how shark skin reduces drag when moving through water.  The potential applications of current biomimicry research carry a lot of promise. Exploring the different areas of biological discovery are paving the way to advancements in material development.In the field of functional clothing, biomimicry can be a new concept for developing novel multifunctional garments. Functional clothing is used for multiple purposes – from aesthetic to basic protection of the elements. Polar bear-inspired winter clothes or solar-thermal applications, lotus leaf-inspired self-cleaning fabrics, rose petal-inspired superhydrophobic surfaces, butterfly wing-inspired structural colors, shark skin-inspired drag-reducing fabrics, antimicrobial surfaces are just a handful of functionalized textiles from a plethora of bio-inspired examples.[5,4] In the field of functional clothing, biomimicry can be a new concept for developing novel multifunctional garments. Functional clothing is used for multiple purposes – from aesthetic to basic protection of the elements[4]


Biomimicry obeys the rules of creation. Life principles advise us to make, make ourselves, refine rather than exploit, use free energy, cross-pollinate, foster sustainability, evolve and expand, and use eco-friendly goods and practises, engage in symbiotic relationships, and build the biosphere from the ground up.[7] Helping to create materials and methods that are better adapted to life on earth. ·If a production approach is not successful in nature, the carrier dies. For 3.8 billion years, evolution has been vetting tactics. Biomimicry aims to research the survivors’ effective tactics so that we can succeed in the world, just as they have succeeded in their habitat. Power is far more troublesome in the natural world than it is in the human world.[11]

Nature creates form, since the form is cheap and the material is costly. Biomimicry helps to reduce the amount the organisation spends on products by researching the mechanisms of nature ‘s techniques and how they are formed, while optimising the efficiency of the product shapes and types to accomplish their desirable functions.[4]

Biomimicry allows us to see from a novel way towards the outdated product types. This fresh outlook offers a possibility for progress. Biomimicry can help to grow innovative technologies that are transforming your business or helping you build brand new businesses.[11]Biomimicry will help to build completely new fields of expansion, reignite stale product segments and draw both creative and sustainability-conscious clients. The development of biomimetic goods and processes would allow your business to become recognised as both creative and environmentally proactive. It is unlikely to consider re-imagining our goods, processes and structures in separate departments with nature as a blueprint, test and guide. All in nature is interconnected, and we see the best ways to harness our interdependence as we seek to imitate the creativity of nature. The mechanisms of biomimicry are inherently interdisciplinary and mutual.



The natural environment is full of patterns and designs and colour combinations which can be a source of inspiration for textile designersIt is clear that the textile industry has been revolutionised by biomimicry and is actually serving as a catalyst for the continuing production of materials. Biomimicry has the power to upgrade manmade technologies and pave the way for the next generation of technological, high-performance materials, from novel fabrics and properties to revolutionary systems and designs and also to the conservation of products and processes. These techniques have not only been adopted by humans, most notably by the military and hunters, but have also influenced other aspects of the society, for example, arts, popular culture and design. Nature is like a vast technological book that provides us with several sophisticated techniques to use fibre as a building block.  It is clear that biomimicry has revolutionized the textile industry, and is currently acting as a source of inspiration for ongoing material development. From novel materials and properties to innovative structures and designs, and even to sustainability of products and processes, biomimicry has the potential to improve manmade materials and pave the way for the next generation of technical, high performance materials.



  1. Das S, Bhowmick M, Chattopadhyay SK and Basak S (2015) Application of biomimicry in textiles. Current Science 109(5): 893–901.
  2. Mirela Teodorescu (2014) Applied Biomimetics: A New Fresh Look of Textiles, Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry Petru Poni Ias¸i, Aleea Grigore Ghica Voda, No. 41A, 700487 Ias ˘ ¸i, Romania
  3. Fratzl P (2007) Biomimetic materials research: what can we really learn from nature’s structural materials? Journal of the Royal Society Interface 4(15): 637–642.
  4. Sekhar Das,  Ajay Kumar, Nachimutu Shanmugam, Seiko Jose (2017) Potential of biomimicry in the field of textile technology,  Indian Council of Agricultural Research–Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute, Malpura, India
  5. Nicola Davies (2019), Biomimicry and Textiles: Inspiration from Nature, AATCC Review 
  6. Sichao Zhang & Yifang Chen, (2015),  Nanofabrication and coloration study of artificial Morpho butterfly wings with aligned lamellae layers, School of Information Science and Engineering, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China
  7. Michael S. Ellison, “Biomimetic textiles,” Proc. SPIE 8686, Bioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication 2013, 868602 (8 April 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2014264
  8. K. J. Rossin, (2010) Biomimicry: nature’s design process versus the designer’s process Miami International University of Art and Design, USA 
  9. DU Weerasinghe1 , Srimala Perera2 and DGK Dissanayake(2019)  Application of biomimicry for sustainable functionalization of textiles: review of current status and prospectus.  

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