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Hitachi High-Tech

The Copycats Around Us

Key points for revision

In nature, animals and plants have many different characteristics and properties. In some cases, the secret of these characteristics is in their special shape. The discipline that looks for inspiration in the special shapes of these organisms to create new products and develop new technologies in different areas of science is called "biomimetics" or "biomimicry."
Many items around you have been created using new technologies inspired by living things. Let's look at one of these together.

From here on out,
look at the worksheet while we answer the questions!
(You can read the worksheet without downloading it)

  • Do you know what flower this is?
    It's a lotus flower. It lives in ponds and swamps.
    Lotus leaves can repel water.

    But how are they able to repel water? It would seem that the secret can be found in the surface of the leaves. What do you think it might be? Write your guess on the worksheet!

  • Now, let's use an electron microscope to find out how the surface of a lotus leaf is structured!

  • Key points for revision

    Magnify a lotus leaf 1,500 times with an electron microscope and you will see lots of bumps.
    These bumps are all over the leaf's surface, and are made of a substance that resembles wax. The bumps make the surface of the leaf uneven, so when water falls on it, it is repelled without spreading around the surface. This is known as the "lotus effect."

    This structure itself is the secret behind the lotus leaf's ability to repel water.

  • Around you, you can probably find quite a few tools inspired by the lotus effect and based on the idea that making surfaces bumpy might allow us to repel a variety of liquids.
    What do you think these might be? You will find some of these items in your own house, so look for them and fill out theworksheet!

  • For example, if you create these little bumps on the surface of a film...

    you get
    a non-stick yogurt lid!

  • Description

    Key points for revision

    If we magnify a yogurt lid 400 to 1,000 times, we can see solid bumps that resemble steamed buns.
    Just like the surface of a lotus leaf, the back of the lid has countless bumps on it, so that even if yogurt sticks to it, it will immediately fall off again.
    These bumps are not visible to the naked eye, but if you touch the back of the lid, it will feel rough to the touch and you will realize that there is something on it!

  • Using an electron microscope made it possible for us to see the shape of the water-repellent surface of a lotus leaf, and to create a non-stick yogurt lid by imitating it.

  • By the way...

    When a rice scoop has a bumpy surface, rice doesn't stick to it, right? As in the case of the yogurt lid, adding countless bumps to the surface of the scoop so that it resembles a lotus leaf prevents rice grains from sticking.

Key points for revision

As you can see, many of the convenient tools around you were made with biomimetics.
"Normal" things that you use all the time may actually be high-tech items made with incredible technology!
If you are amazed at how convenient something is and are wondering about it, try looking it up. It may be a useful tool made with biomimetics.

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