What if the solution were to be found in nature?

An engineer with a doctorate in physics, chemistry and biology, Laura Magro works at Ceebios, the Senlis European Centre of Excellence in Biomimetics. Its goal is to further sustainable innovation inspired by nature. Here, a closer look at this burgeoning field.

What is biomimetics?

It’s a science that uses living organisms as a model to take advantage of nature’s solutions and innovations and try to adapt them to our own challenges. Biomimicry has been at the heart of numerous innovations for several years, and now we’re taking another step forward by combining it with sustainable development. We’re no longer looking just for technical performance; we’re saying that nature can also help us make advances in sustainability. The fact is that nature itself is a model of sustainable development. I’ll give you an example. The skeletons of sea sponges are made of glass made from silica in the water. Meantime, industrially, glass is made by heating sand to 1800° C, and the sand sometimes has to come from quite far away. So nature really has a lot to teach us.

Untitled, 2016, oil on canvas ©Jeremie Cosimi

What kind of interactions can biomimicry have with the fashion world?

In terms of innovation, a lot has already been achieved. We’re all familiar with the water-repellence of lotus and water-lily plants, which played a role in making fabric floor coverings. The manufacturing of Velcro was also inspired by living things, namely burdock flowers and their spiky burrs that attach themselves to animals’ furs to disperse their seeds. In the worlds of fashion and eco-responsibility, biomimicry is currently exploring issues related to water, and the creation of new fibres. Observing fibrous materials in the natural world helps us advance the development of new material structures, such as vegetable leathers. In this field, everything is yet to be invented.

What areas of application are being explored at Ceebios?

The association seeks to promote biomimicry in all its applications: academic research along with a range of industrial R&D sectors – cosmetics, automotive, space, energy, building, and housing in general. We’ve developed training courses for both students and professionals in the field of biomimetics. Together with the Institute of Desirable Futures, we have developed training courses for both students and professionals. These four-day sessions provide an opportunity to test the methodology, immerse yourself in biology and discover interfaces between technical challenges and living organisms. We also work with companies to try and develop biomimetic research to solve their technical problems and implement projects. Most of these are now linked to sustainable development.

 

In February, discover the exhibition “Mutations, Man, Textiles and Nature” and the entire offer dedicated to Fashion Tech at Smart Creation (Hall 3).