Research Papers: Empirical Studies

Biomimetics: Structure–Function Patterns Approach

[+] Author and Article Information
Yael Helfman Cohen

Porter School of Environmental Studies,
Tel Aviv University,
Tel Aviv 69978, Israel
e-mail: yael@biomimicry.org.il

Yoram Reich

School of Mechanical Engineering,
Tel Aviv University,
Tel Aviv 69978, Israel
e-mail: yoram@eng.tau.ac.il

Sara Greenberg

Faculty of Sciences,
Holon Institute of Technology,
Holon 58102, Israel
e-mail: osa10@zahav.net.il

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received December 8, 2013; final manuscript received July 25, 2014; published online October 8, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Daniel A. McAdams.

J. Mech. Des 136(11), 111108 (Oct 08, 2014) (11 pages) Paper No: MD-13-1567; doi: 10.1115/1.4028169 History: Received December 08, 2013; Revised July 25, 2014; Accepted August 01, 2014

Understanding the relationships between structures and functions is important for engineering design in general and for biomimetic design specifically. In nature, different structures provide a wide range of functions efficiently and with minimal costs. Based on the analyses of 140 biological systems that are derived from biomimetic sources by a TRIZ based method, we provide a list and examples of structure–function patterns that repeat in biomimetic applications. These patterns are presented through a technical lens and a complete system model, serving as engines or brakes of the biological system, exploiting energy sources or blocking them, respectively. This list of patterns serves as an index of clues that open doors for further investigation of the complexity of these relations. Understanding the mechanisms behind these meta-level patterns is required for a successful biomimetic design process. The list provides both keywords for biological databases search and clues for abstraction of biological texts. The TRIZ based method that has been used for this study can be further used for modeling other biological systems during the abstraction stage of the biomimetic design process. Thus, we offer a bridge between biology and technology and set a foundation for a new biomimetic design method.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


Ball, P., 2009, Shapes—Nature's Patterns a Tapestry in Three Parts, Oxford University, New York.
Foy, S., 1983, The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals, Prentice-Hall, Inc, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Haeckel, E., Breidbach, B., Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I., Hartmann, R., Schons, M., and Ashdown, M., 1998, Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel, Prestel Munich.
Pearce, P., 1978, Structure in Nature is a Strategy for Design, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Stevens, P. S., 1974, Patterns in Nature, Atlantic-Little Brown Books, Boston, MA.
Thompson, D., 1966, On Growth and Form, Cambridge University, New York.
Tsui, E., 1999, Evolutionary Architecture-Nature as a Basis for Design, Wiley, New York.
Vogel, S., 1988, Life's Devices-The Physical World of Animals and Plants, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Bejan, A., 2000, Shape and Structure, From Engineering to Nature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Ritchey, T., 2002, Modelling Complex Socio-Technical Systems Using Morphological Analysis. Adapted from an address to the Swedish Parliamentary IT Commission, Stockholm, 2002.
Gleich, A., Pade, C., Petschow, U., and Pissarskoi, E., 2009, Potentials and Trends in Biomimetics, Springer, Heidelberg.
Vincent, J., 2009, “Biomimetics—A Review,” Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng, 223(8), pp. 919–939. [CrossRef]
Koehl, M. A. R., 1996, “When Does Morphology Matter?,” Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst., 27, pp. 501–542. [CrossRef]
Lauder, G. V., 1990, “Functional Morphology and Systematics: Studying Functional Patterns in an Historical Context,” Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst., 21, pp. 317–340. [CrossRef]
Sartori, J., Pal, U., and Chakrabarti, A., 2010, “A Methodology for Supporting “Transfer” in Biomimetic Design,” Artif. Intell. Eng. Des. Anal. Manuf., 24(4), pp. 483–505. [CrossRef]
Goel, A. K., Rugaber, S., and Vattam, S., 2009, “Structure, Behavior, and Function of Complex Systems: The Structure, Behavior, and Function Modeling Language,” Artif. Intell. Eng. Des. Anal. Manuf., 23(1), pp. 23–35. [CrossRef]
DANE, Design by Analogy to Nature Engine, a Tool to Facilitate Analogical Biologically Inspired Design, http://dilab.cc.gatech.edu/dane/
Chakrabarti, A., Sarkar, P., Leelavathamma, B., and Nataraju, B. S., 2005, “A Functional Representation for Aiding Biomimetic and Artificial Inspiration of New Ideas,” Artif. Intell. Eng. Des. Anal. Manuf., 19(2), pp. 113–132. [CrossRef]
Fratzl, P., 2007, “Biomimetic Materials Research: What Can We Really Learn From Nature's Structural Materials?,” J. R. Soc. Interface, 4(15), pp. 637–642. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Gorb, S. N., 2006, Functional Surfaces in Biology: Mechanisms and Applications, in Biomimetics: Biologically Inspired Technologies, Y.Bar-Cohen, ed., CRC, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 381–397.
Gorb, S., 2001, Attachment Devices of Insect Cuticle, Kluwer, New York.
Hoeller, N., Salustri, F., DeLuca, D., Pedersen, Z., Love, M., McKeag, T., Stephers, F., Reap, J., and Sopchac, L., 2007, “Patterns From Nature,” Proceedings Society for Experimental Mechanics Annual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics, Springfield, MA, June 4–6.
Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., and Silverstein, M., 1977, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series), Oxford University Press, New York.
Speck, T., and Burgert, I., 2008, “Process Sequences in Biomimetic Research,” Des. Nat., 4, pp. 3–11. [CrossRef]
Helms, M., Vattam, S., and Goel, A. K., 2009, “Biologically Inspired Design: Process and Products,” Des. Stud., 30(5), pp. 606–622. [CrossRef]
Mak, T., and Shu., L., 2004, “Abstraction of Biological Analogies for Design,” CIRP Ann. Manuf. Technol., 53(1), pp. 117–120. [CrossRef]
Vattam, S., Helms, M., and Goel, A. K., 2010, “A Content Account of Creative Analogies in Biologically Inspired Design,” Artif. Intell. Eng. Des. Anal. Manuf., 24(4), pp. 467–481. [CrossRef]
Goel, A. K., 1997, “Design, Analogy, and Creativity,” IEEE Expert, 12(3), pp. 62–70. [CrossRef]
Goel, A. K., and Bhatta, S. R., 2004, “Use of Design Patterns in Analogy-Based Design,” Adv. Eng. Inf., 18(2), pp. 85–94. [CrossRef]
Goel, A. K., Bras, B., Helms, M., Rugaber, S., Tovey, C., Vattam, S., Weissburg, M., Wiltgen, B., and Yen, J., 2011, “Design Patterns and Cross-Domain Analogies in Biologically Inspired Sustainable Design,” 2011 AAAI Spring Symposium Series, Palo Alto, CA, Mar. 21–23.
Hirtz, J., Stone, R. B., McAdams, D. A., Szykman, S., and Wood, K. L., 2002, “A Functional Basis for Engineering Design: Reconciling and Evolving Previous Efforts,” Res. Eng. Des., 13(2), pp. 65–82.
AskNature Comprehensive Catalog of Nature's Solutions to Human Design Challenges, www.asknature.org
The American Biomimicry Institute and Guild. Biomimicry 3.8, www.biomimicry.net
Archive of Biomimicry News & Research, www.biomimicrynews.org
Altshuller, G., 1999, “The Innovation Algorithm,” TRIZ, Systematic Innovation and Technical Creativity, Technical Innovation Center, Inc, Worcester, MA.
Vincent, J. F., and Mann, D. L., 2002, “Systematic Technology Transfer From Biology to Engineering,” Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London, Ser. A, 360(1791), pp. 159–173. [CrossRef]
Vincent, J. F., Bogatyreva, O. A., Bogatyrev, N. R., Bowyer, A., and Pahl, A. K., 2006, “Biomimetics: Its Practice and Theory,” J. R. Soc. Interface, 3(9), pp. 471–482. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Nagel, R. L., Midha, P. A., Tinsley, A., Stone, R. B., McAdams, D. A., and Shu, L. H., 2008, “Exploring the Use of Functional Models in Biomimetic Conceptual Design,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 130(12), p. 121102. [CrossRef]
Nagel, J. K., Nagel, R. L., Stone, R. B., and McAdams, D. A., 2010, “Function-Based, Biologically Inspired Concept Generation,” Arif. Intell. Eng. Des. Anal. Manuf., 24(4), pp. 521–535. [CrossRef]
Helfman, C. Y., Reich, Y., and Greenberg, S., 2011, “What Can We Learn From Biological Systems When Applying the Law of System Completeness?,” ETRIA European TRIZ Association 2011, Dublin.
Helfman, C. Y., Reich, Y., and Greenberg, S., 2012, “Substance Field Analysis and Biological Functions,” ETRIA European TRIZ Association, Lisbon.
Mann, D., “The TRIZ Route to Naturally Better System Design,” Systematic Innovation, www.systematic-innovation.com
Bukhman, I., 2012, TRIZ Technology for Innovation, Cubic Creativity Company, Taipei, Taiwan.
Berdonosov, V., 2011, “Application Characteristics of the Law of System Completeness,” Procedia Eng., 9, pp. 337–344. [CrossRef]
Sharklet Technologies, http://sharklet.com/technology/
Autumn, K., Liang, Y. A., Hsieh, S. T., Zesch, W., Chan, W. P., Kenny, T. W., Fearing, R., and Full, R., 2000, “Adhesive Force of a Single Gecko Foot-Hair,” Nature, 405(6787), pp. 681–685. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Solga, A., Cerman, Z., Striffler, B. F., Spaeth, M., and Barthlott, W., 2007, “The Dream of Staying Clean: Lotus and Biomimetic Surfaces,” Bioinspiration Biomimetics, 2(4), pp. S126–S139. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Kirschner, C. M., and Brennan, A. B., 2012, “Bio-Inspired Antifouling Strategies,” Annu. Rev. Mater. Res., 42, pp. 211–229. [CrossRef]
Fratzl, P., and Weinkamer, R., 2007, “Nature's Hierarchical Materials,” Prog. Mater. Sci., 52(8), pp. 1263–1334. [CrossRef]
Cartailler, J. P., http://www.symmation.com/
Lev-Yadun, S., Katzir, G., and Neeman, G., 2009, “Rheum Palaestinum (Desert Rhubarb), a Self-Irrigating Desert Plant,” Naturwissenschaften, 96(3), pp. 393–397. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Turner, J. S., and Soar, R. C., 2008, “Beyond Biomimicry: What Termites Can Tell Us About Realizing the Living Building,” Proceedings of 1st International Conference on Industrialized, Intelligent Construction, Loughborough University, UK, May 14–16.
Wit, R., and Lieckfeld, C.-F. (eds.), 1991, Bionics—Nature Patents, PRO FUTURA Verlag, Munich.
Tributsch, H., 1982, How Life Learned to Live: Adaptation in Nature, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Seki, Y., Schneider, M. S., and Meyers, M. A., 2005, “Structure and Mechanical Behavior of a Toucan Beak,” Acta Mater., 53(20), pp. 5281–5296. [CrossRef]
Quick, D., 2011, “Filter Feeding Basking Shark Inspires More Efficient Hydroelectric Turbine,” http://www.gizmag.com/strait-power-hydroelectric-turbine/17801/, last accessed January 24, 2013.
Dawson, C., Vincent, J. F., and Rocca, A. M., 1997, “How Pine Cones Open,” Nature, 390(6661), p. 668. [CrossRef]
Wainwright, P. C., Turingan, R. G., and Brainerd, E. L., 1995, “Functional Morphology of Pufferfish Inflation: Mechanism of the Buccal Pump,” Copeia, 1995(3), pp. 614–625. [CrossRef]
Scarr, G., 2011, “Helical Tensegrity as a Structural Mechanism in Human Anatomy,” Int. J. Osteopath. Med., 14(1), pp. 24–32. [CrossRef]
Wainwright, S., Vosburgh, F., and Hebrank, J., 1978, “Shark Skin: Function in Locomotion,” Science, 202(4369), pp. 747–749. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Smith, B. L., Schäffer, T. E., Viani, M., Thompson, J. B., Frederick, N. A., Kindt, J., Belcher, A., Stucky, G. D., Morse, D. E., and Hansma, P. K., 1999, “Molecular Mechanistic Origin of the Toughness of Natural Adhesives, Fibres and Composites,” Nature, 399(6738), pp. 761–763. [CrossRef]
Cassidy, J., Hiltner, A., and Baer, E., 1989, “Hierarchical Structure of the Intervertebral Disc,” Connect. Tissue Res., 23(1), pp. 75–88. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Vogel, S., 2000, Cats' Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People, WW Norton & Company, New York.
Vattam, S., and Goel, A., 2011, “Foraging for Inspiration: Understanding and Supporting the Information Seeking Practices of Biologically Inspired Designers,” ASME Paper No. DETC2011-48238. [CrossRef]
Nagel, J. K., Stone, R. B., and McAdams, D. A., 2010, “An Engineering-to-Biology Thesaurus for Engineering Design,” ASME Paper No. DETC2010-28233. [CrossRef]
Shu, L., 2010, “A Natural-Language Approach to Biomimetic Design,” Artif. Intell. Eng. Des. Anal. Manuf., 24(4), pp. 507–519. [CrossRef]
Cheong, H., Chiu, I., Shu, L. H., Stone, R. B., and McAdams, D. A., 2011, “Biologically Meaningful Keywords for Functional Terms of the Functional Basis,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 133(2), p. 021007. [CrossRef]
Yen, J., Helms, M., Goel, A., Tovey, C., and Weissburg, M., 2014, Adaptive Evolution of Teaching Practices in Biologically Inspired Design, in Biologically Inspired Design, Springer-Verlag, London, pp. 153–199.
Coppola, G., and Caro, C., 2008, “Oxygen Mass Transfer in a Model Three-Dimensional Artery,” J. R. Soc. Interface, 5(26), pp. 1067–1075. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Arzt, E., Gorb, S., and Spolenak, R., 2003, “From Micro to Nano Contacts in Biological Attachment Devices,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A, 100(19), pp. 10603–10606. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Nachtigall, W., 2002, Bionik: Grundlagen und Beispiele für Ingenieure und Naturwissenschaftler, Springer, Berlin, DE.
Reich, Y., and Shai, O., 2012, “The Interdisciplinary Engineering Knowledge Genome,” Res. Eng. Des., 23(3), pp. 251–264. [CrossRef]
Reich, Y., Shai, O., Subrahmanian, E., Hatchuel, A., and Le Masson, P., 2008, “The Interplay Between Design and Mathematics: Introduction to Bootstrapping Effects,” ASME Paper No. ESDA2008-59410. [CrossRef]


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

The complete viable system model: dashed line elements are parts of the Su_Field model. Solid line elements are parts of the law of system completeness.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Lotus effect cleaning mechanism—analysis by the complete viable system model. Dashed line elements are parts of the Su_Field model. Solid line elements are parts of the law of system completeness.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Streamlined shapes: (a) spiral shell, (b) penguins body contour, (c) boxfish, and (d) kingfisher's beak. Photo (a) (By Andrew Butko, from Wikimedia under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3) [70]. Photo (b) (Reprinted from public domain). Photo (c) (Reprinted from public domain). Photo (d) (Reprinted with permission from Biomimicry IL. Copyright Biomimicry IL) [71].

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Container structures: (a) bird nests, (b) jaw fish—burrow, (c) geophytes, and (d) carnivorous plants cups. Photo (a) (By Fir0002, from Wikimedia under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2) [72]. Photo (b) (From Wikimedia under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2) [73]. Photo (c) (By H. Zell, from Wikimedia under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2) [74]. Photo (d) (Reprinted from public domain).




Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In