Torben Lenau > The Biomimetic Project


Bio-inspired design - Biomimetics
inspiration from nature to create new and improved products



Katapult’s summer school is Innovation Inspired by Nature
Student projects / special course Collaboration between KU-Life and DTU

41084 Biomimetics / Bio Inspired Design (BID) DTU Course
BID course 2015
BID course 2016


WORP Introduction to the BID-method, a video by Gabriel Kure and Pernille Vergmann

The Biocard method

ALPHA Algae Photonics Applications
  Passive heliostatic solar collectors

Nordtek Design Network

Biomimetic case examples:
3D Compas inspired by migrating birds
Download poster (1MB)
RughJumper inspired by the kangaroos movement in rugged terrein
Download poster (1MB)

What is biomimetic design?
Bio-inspired design, biomimetics - or bionik as parts of Europe calls it - is the discipline of creating new objects with inspiration from nature. The terms are constructed from Greek "bios" meaning life, the suffix "ik" from 'mechanik' (meaning mechanics in German) and "mimeistai" meaning imitate. The discipline is interesting for designers since it offers a huge base of well proven design principles - many of them have evolved over millions of years and proven their value by still being in use. The inspiration from nature can be direct and remind of copying or it can be more indirect where phenomena or principles found in nature are used more freely within the design process.

An old activity
Inspiration from nature has been done for many years, but biomimetics as a scientific discipline is still in its infancy. It is straight forward to do biomimetic design when a direct analogy to the actual design situation is apparent. For example was it probably an easy deduction for the stone age man to make clothes from animal fur - he could see that the animals could withstand the cold weather. However, the amount of inspiration available in nature is much larger than the direct analogies. Many of the underlying principles that explain the functionally in animals and plants are not immediately recognisable and a more advanced study is required to find and understand them.

A scientific discipline
Biomimetics as a scientific discipline needs to formulate theories that will explain the relations between nature and technology and develop methodologies that will facilitate the design process. Design is basically about creating new ideas and transforming them into physical or immaterial concepts. But the design activity will be different depending on the focus. Engineering design with focus on mechanics and industrial design with focus on aesthetics use biomimetics in two fundamentally different ways. Roughly speaking are the engineering designer mostly focused on inspiration to new functional principles, like for example cleaning principles or principles for reduced flow resistance. The industrial designer on the other hand has focus on inspiration for aesthetics and geometric shape, like plant shapes and animal expressions. This is of course a very rough generalisation and the real world picture is much more complex. Furthermore will both groups also be interested in other aspects of nature, for instance system oriented inspiration from ecosystems. But the distinction is important when looking at supportive measures for biomimetics. Search methodologies for mechanical principles are very different from retrieval tools for geometry and shape.

Project network:

Torben Lenau Department of Mechanical Engineering, DTU
Thomas Hesselberg, University of Oxford and
Christina Okai Mejborn, Architect and Industrial Designer
Andy Dentel, Bionik, HS Bremen
Jørgen Eilenberg and Annette Bruun Jensen, KU Life
Marianne Ellegaard & Nina Lundholm, KU

Thórunn M. Ingvarsdóttir and Tómas Vignir Gudlaugsson (Leg prothesis)
Peter Jonathan Jensen and Troels Kasper Theilby
Meiken Hansen and Hannah Franzel (Neck fixation)
Lars Drøgemüller Kjelsen (Catheters)
Gabiel Kure and Pernille Vergmann
(Earth cables & Electrical wires)
Stine Ziska Jensen & Birka Dregart Larsen (Rat trapping)
Kristian Bjarklev (Sun tracer)
Camilla Nielsen & Johan Aakerlund (Sun tracer)
Kristian Sidelmann & Mathies Herskind (Cooling)
Benjamin Johansen & Søren Boesen (Mosquitoes and injection)
Mette Pedersen & Kira Madsen Lorenzen (Laparoscopic navigation)
Luisa Keinprecht (Spider webs and composite membranes)
Bryan O'Regan (Heat zink)
Tine Künel Jørgensen & Laura Kofoed Kjeldsen (Applied aesthetics in biomimetic design - a guide)
Anders Lithander, Kim Bo Kristiansen & Aryan Christiansen (Biomimetic temperature control for Rockwool)
Mads Rųmer Svensen and Jakob Wulff Andersen (Insect trap for biological pest control)
Charlotte Pręstmose Christiansen and Jon Grane Madsen (headset)
Sofie Gacs (Mosquito inspired injection)
Jacob Mortensen & Rasmus Lundgaard (Mosquito inspired injection)
Laura Lottes (Solar tracking inspired by plantmotion)
Karl Otto Willemoes (Solar tracking inspired by plantmotion)
Stine Renberg Andersen & David Wiese Nothlev Rasmussen (Rectal scanner)
Ronja Pereira Haase & Marianne von Freiesleben (Improved hypodermic drug delivery)
Johan Rindmar (Solar trackers for private houses)
Thomas Dam Poulsen (polymer cannula)


Shu, L.H. Lenau, T.A., Hansen H.N.and Alting, L.(2003) Biomimetics applied to centeringin micro-assembly, CIRP-annals 2003, vol 52/1/2003, p.101-104.

Lenau, T., Barfoed M. and Shu, L. (2007) Challenges in biomimetic design and innovation, Poster at the conference 'Bioinspired Nanotechnologies for Smarter Products', 20th - 21st March 2007 at the Society of Chemical Industry, London, organised by The Institute of Nanotechnology.

Lenau, T. and Barfoed, M.(2007): Material Innovation - inspired by nature, Danish Metallurgical Society - Annual Winter Meeting, Middelfart 10-12 January 2007, 10 pages.

Lenau, T.and Barfoed, M. (2007) Teknisk udvikling med inspiration i naturen, Teknisk Nyt Special, Nr. 5a, Vol. 14, April 2007, p.25-26.

Lenau, T. and Barfoed, M. (2008) Colours and metallic sheen in beetle shells- a biomimetic search for material structuring principles causing light interference, Journal of Advanced Engineering Materials, vol.10, no. 4, 2008, 299-314, DOI: 10.1002/adem.200700346.

Lenau T., Cheong H. and Shu L. (2008) Sensing in nature - using biomimetics for design of sensors, Sensor Review, Vol 28-4, 2008, p.311-316. (2009 outstanding paper award).

Bionik - med naturen som forbillede (Biomimetics - with nature as a role model), Danmarks Radio p1 Videnskabens Verden 4. oktober 2008 16-17, can be heard or pod-casted from (in Danish)

Lenau T. (2009) Biomimetics – new and improved solutions inspired by nature, Invited viewpoint article, Sensor Review, Vol.29-2, 2009, p.96.

Lenau, T. (2009) Biomimetics as a design methodology – possibilities and challenges, International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED'09 24 - 27 august 2009, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.

Lenau, T. A., Aggerbeck, M. & Nielsen, S. (2009) Approaches to mimic the metallic sheen in beetles, SPIE Optics & Photonics - The Biomimetics and Bioinspiration conference, 2-6 August 2009, San Diego, USA.

Lenau, T. (2010) Materialevalg med inspiration i naturen, Præsentation på Materialedagen 2010, Dansk Selskab for Materialeprøvning og -Forskning (DSM), DTU 22 april 2010.

Lenau, T., Dentel, A., Ingvarsdóttir, Ž. and Gušlaugsson T. (2010) Engineering Design of an Adaptive Leg Prosthesis Using Biological Principles,
in Marjanovic D., Storga M., Pavkovic N. and Bojcetic N. (eds) (2010) International Design Conference - DESIGN 2010, Dubrovnik, University of Zagreb/The Design Society, pp 331-340

Lenau, T.(2010) Inspiration i naturen, Inviteret artikel til til 'Akademisk kvarter' i temanummer om materialer i INFORM 0310, udgivet af Danske Designere, sommer 2010, s.30.

Lenau, T. A.; Cheong, H.; Shu, L. (2010) Sensing in nature: using biomimetics for design of sensors, Measurement and Control 43.2:58-61 (Awarded best paper of the year)

Lenau, T.: Naturen som den bedste materialeekspert, Dansk Design Center 16. nov 2010

Lenau, T.and Mejborn, C.O. (2011) Solving Global Problems Using Collaborative Design Processes, International Conference for Engineering Design, ICED11 15 - 18 August 2011, Technical University of Denmark

Lenau, T., Helten, K., Hepperle, C., Schenkl, S. and Lindemann, U. (2011) Reducing Cinsequences of Car Collision Using Inspiration from Nature, IASDR2011 4th World Conference on Design Research, Delft The Netherlands, 31 October-4 November 2011.

Lenau, T. (2012) Nature inspired structural colour applications, In: Biomimetic in Photonics, ed. Olaf Karthaus, CRC Press p. 72-96 (Series in Optics and optoelectronics).

Lenau T.& Hesselberg, T. (2013) Self-organising and self-healing within biomimetics, in: Engineered biomimicry, ed. by Akhlesh Lakhtakia and Raúl-José Martín-Palma, Elsevier (p.333-358).

Keshwani S., Lenau T., Ahmed-Kristensen, S. and Chakrabarti, A.: Benchmarking bio-inspired designs with brainstorming in terms of Novelty of design outcomes, ICED13 conference, Seoul Korea August 2013 (Reviewers Choise Award).

Keshwani S., Lenau T., Ahmed-Kristensen, S. and Chakrabarti, A.(2013) Benchmarking bio-inspired designs with brainstorming in terms of Novelty of design outcomes, ICED13 conference, Seoul Korea August 2013 (Reviewers Choise Award).

Lenau, T. and Hesselberg, T. (2014) Self-organisation and motion in plants, Proceedings of SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering, Vol. 9055, ISSN 0277-786X.

Ahmed-Kristensen, S., Christensen, B. T. and Lenau, T. (2014) Naturally original: Stimulating creative design through biological analogies and random images, International Design Conference - DESIGN 2014, Dubrovnik - Croatia, May 19 - 22, 2014.

Lenau, T.A.; Keshwani, S.; Chakrabarti, A. and Ahmed-Kristensen, S. (2015) Biocards and level of abstraction, ICED 2015 (accepted for publication)

Lenau, T. & Hesselberg T. (2015) Dry sanitation concepts with inspiration from nature, Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development (accepted for publication). Available at

Overview litterature:

Benyus J.M. Biomimicry - innovation inspired by nature, 1997 (Perennial - HarperCollins Publishers).

Bar-Cohen Y. (ed) Biomimetics - biology inspired technologies, 2006 (Taylor & Francis).

Kato, N. and Kamimura S. Bio-mechanics of swimming and flying, 2007 (Springer)

Nachtigall, W. Bionik, 2002 (Springer)

Shu, L.H., Ueda, K., Chiu, I., Cheong, H., 2011, Biologically Inspired Design, CIRP Annals - Manufacturing Technology, 60/2:673-693.

Shu, L., 2010, A Natural-language Approach to Biomimetic Design, in Special Issue on Biologically Inspired Design of the Journal on Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing, 24:4/507-519.

Strager, H. m.fl. Bionik - mennesket lærer af naturen, 2005 (Zoologisk museum)

Vincent J.F.V. Biomimetic modelling, Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Modelling in Biomechanics, 2003 358(1437), 1597-1603,

Vogel, Steven: Cats' Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People, W.W.Norton, New York

Yen, Jeannette, Weissburg, Marc J., Helms, Michael and Goel, Ashok K. (2011) Biologically Inspired Design: A Tool for Interdisciplinary Education, Biomimetics: Nature-based Innovation, ed: Y. Bar-Cohen, CRC-Press/Taylor Francis, p. 332-360.

Links: A good biomimicry search engine and database with many biological examples

Biodiscovery An Australian based cross disciplinary network looking for new pharmaceuticals in the marine environment at the University of Maryland A network for Bionic research in Germany
Bionik, HS Bremen An inspiration site for Biomimetics - many good case examples
biomimetics lab A New Zealand research group A Danish for news and insight into biomimetics (hosted by The Biomimicry Institute)
BIONIS - The Biomimetics Network for Industrial Sustainability, hosted by the Reading and Bath Universities
Biops - Biology inspired Problem Solving A german biomimetic search site

BIOQL - search tools for biological and technical solutions
Centre for Biomimetics at the University of Reading
CBID - Center for Biologically Inspired Design at Georgia Tech, A material database with biomimetic examples
Division of Biocomposites, KTH Stockholm
Encyclopedea of Life, A comprehensive american biology database
Ideas Lab, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore: Idea-Inspire tool for searching natures solutions
Leonardo da Vinci - Zentrum at TU München
Natural Photonics at The University of Exeter
TED Ideas worth spreading - good introductory you-tube-like videos on many topics - look for biomimetics, Beynyus or Robert Full

The Biomimetics Group at the University of Bath
The Biomimicry Institute, Montana USA
Toronto, Biomimetics for Innovation and Design Laboratory, University of Toronto; Canada
Tree of Life - many descriptions and good pictures of biological phenomena

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