NatureTech, a multi-award-winning series, explores "biomimetics" - the science of looking to nature for answers to modern problems.
Why are blossoms never dirty and can we also make our cars that way? Why can geckos walk on the ceiling and can we use their tricks to create better adhesives? Why is the spider’s web tougher than steel? Exciting new developments in computer technology, chemistry and physics are now enabling us to understand Nature’s designs better than ever before. Scientists are not simply trying to copy nature – they are taking hints, extracting principles and applying winning designs of evolution in a new, human context.
Visually, this series is an attractive, fast-paced mix of stunning natural history shots, computer-assisted design and CGI graphics of futuristic inventions, ultra-modern, spacy architecture and high tech as well as scenes of the world’s leading designers and engineers at work, all created by the team that made "Limits of Perception".
Part 1 - Magic of Motion
Most animals, and even a few plants, move. They swim, walk, run or fly in a wide range of ways, and in this programme we look at how designers of planes, cars and robots have found inspiration in nature. But biomimetics is not just about copying nature, it’s about understanding the principles behind nature’s success and applying those in new and surprising ways. So exploring the world of cars and planes also gives us some startling new insights into nature as well. In this programme we find out why sharks can swim so fast, how flies and geckos can climb smooth glass and how vultures can help the next generation of airliners. We also meet robot cockroaches that might look like something from science fiction, but might be the fore-runners of the latest all terrain vehicles.
Part 2 - The Material World
Nature invented a whole range of hi-tec materials long before we invented ceramics and plastics. And not only are they often better, but nature has also invented ingenious ways of building with them. In this programme we travel inside a giant sequoia to find out how nature has built the largest living thing ever, and how that might help us make better bullet-proof vests. In the forests of Central America, the breath-taking, irridescence of a morpho butterfly in flight is all the more amazing when slowed down over a hundred times. It has inspired one cosmetics company to invent an entirely new kind of lipstick – but more importantly, understanding its dazzling beauty might pave the way for a new revolution in information technology – photonic crystals – that would make fibre optic systems obsolete.
Part 3 - Lifepower
Nature has to be efficient in the way it processes information and uses energy so when scientists began to look at nature with biomimetic eyes, it’s not surprising that they started to see entirely new visions for our future. Nature’s power stations are everywhere – in the form of leaves. They run on sunlight and their main waste product is oxygen. Now scientists have succeeded in building an artificial leaf, which could produce hydrogen – the fuel of the future – powered by nothing but sunlight. And when we park out new non-polluting cars at home or work, what will the buildings be like?
For that, scientists are looking at prairie dogs and termites. In Namibia we watch scientists laboriously fill a 3 metre high termite mound with latex, then, under the burning sun, shave away a few millimetres of the mound at a time and photograph it. The end result is the first ever complete 3D model of a termite mound, and it reveals some remarkable stories of how the termites control temperature, carbon dioxide and humidity in the nest. Understanding this, there’s no reason why we can’t build our own tower blocks on the same principles.