It is approximately four billion years since the appearance of primitive forms of life on earth. Over these years of history, life on earth has evolved, going through climate changes and repeated battles for existence and selection. In recent years, with extinctions of species increasing rapidly, the importance of conserving biodiversity has been emphasized. One of the reasons for that is the benefits these living things bring us. We, as human beings, receive benefits such as the supply of food, fiber, wood and raw materials for medical products, the generation of oxygen and water, and even knowledge of manufacturing practices we can learn from the structures and functions of living things. Shimadzu's technology is involved in such areas, which may bring innovative changes to our lives.
Expectation for Learning Manufacturing from Living Things
"Biomimetics" is also known as the technology of mimicking nature. Based on the concept that "There must be some reasons for the sustainability of living things that have been living for a long period from ancient times," biomimetics refers to a scientific technology to analyze their characteristics in detail and imitate their excellent structures and functions, production processes and even the ecosystems in which they live as a group, with the intention of putting it to use in the fields of new engineering technologies and manufacturing. Proposed by Dr. Otto Schmidt, an American neurophysiologist, in the late 1950s, biomimetics is said to have been coined by combining such as the words of "bio," "mime" and "mimic." Since historical times, many familiar products have already been put into practical use, such as sponges made of synthetic resin produced by mimicking marine sponges. Other examples include super-water-repellent materials imitating the surface of lotus leaves, swimsuits for competitive swimming mimicking sharkskin, high-speed vehicles with the front imitating the beak of a kingfisher, and adhesive materials that mimic the hierarchical structure of a gecko foot. Although these techniques and products may seem ordinary nowadays, the developments have progressed while obtaining "awareness" from living organisms in natural environments.
Shimadzu Corporation and Biomimetics
While research and development using biomimetics has an extremely long history, Shimadzu has been engaged since 2014 in the development of evaluation and analysis methods using analytical and measuring instruments, receiving full support and gaining materials and knowledge about the latest research themes from the research group working under the scheme of Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research in Innovative Areas, "Innovative materials technology based on biodiversity" by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. From 2015, we have been a corporate member of the Society of Polymer Science, Japan (SPSJ), conducting surveys on the needs concerning analysis and evaluation for new materials research. The survey results show that for a new material to be recognized as a final functional chemical material through research and development, it must go through a variety of tests at each stage of raw material evaluation, product evaluation and quality control. Shimadzu pushes forward the progress of research and development and the practical use of biomimetics by providing a wide range of products and abundant methods of evaluation and analysis in the areas of material-quality evaluation, observation/analysis evaluation, physical characteristics evaluation and mechanical-performance evaluation. In the meanwhile, environmental technology development based on biomimetics has been attracting attention, and knowledge about how to apply it to the development of renewable energies and energy-saving products has been accumulated. By establishing a sustainable society in harmony with nature through manufacturing with low environmental load, we will make every effort to maintain the rich ecosystem that can be a great source of inspiration for new materials and products.
Examples of analytical and measuring instruments used for research and development and practical application using biomimetics
Voice of a Stakeholder
With the international standardization proposed by Germany in 2011 becoming effective, there has been an increasing interest in biomimetics from various industries, including materials, chemicals, machinery, automobiles, architecture and agriculture. This situation can be attributed to significant progress in analysis and evaluation techniques, mainly in nanotechnology, which is exactly what Shimadzu excels in.
In July 2016, "Biomim' expo 2016" was held in Senlis, France, by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, in cooperation with the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle and many companies. The keynote was centered on the firm recognition that biomimetics based on biodiversity is definitely a technological innovation that will contribute to sustainability.
Professor of the Department of Applied Chemistry and Bioscience,
Faculty of Science and Technology, Chitose Institute of Science and Technology