Eiji Nakatsu is a Japanese engineer who works on the Tokyo-Hakata train line. At the beginning of the 2010s the latter will welcome the Shinkansen, the new version of the Japanese TGV. Problem, this same train line is dotted with tunnels.
When entering and exiting at high speed, the train causes intense pressure changes, which are characterized by very unpleasant detonations for travelers and local residents alike. In the long term, it could even damage the structure of the tracks and tunnels.
A bird at the front of all our trains
In order to resolve this problem, Eiji Nakatsu will have the idea of taking inspiration from the kingfisher's beak. This small bird has a particular shape and is indeed capable of diving into water at very high speed, without experiencing changes in pressure. With a very sharp beak, it can make its way through the water and dive to a depth of one meter without problem.
It's this design that will be used by Eiji Nakatsu in the construction of the Shinkansen. The principle works so well that in addition to putting an end to detonations around the tunnels, this new nose makes it possible to gain 10% more speed and at the same time reduce the electricity consumption of the train by 15%.
It is therefore by drawing inspiration from life and its millions of years of evolution that engineers have succeeded in solving a complex problem. This process, called biomimicry, is increasingly used in the world of research, both by engineers and doctors.
D’a supermarket to our shoes, biomimicry is everywhere
In addition to high-speed trains, which today all more or less follow the design of Eiji Nakatsu and the kingfisher, other structures built by humans have animal inspirations. This is notably the case of the Eastgate Centre, a supermarket built in 1996 in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The latter takes on the features of a termite mound, in order to maintain constant insulation without spending a lot of energy.
Another invention, which we use every day, comes from nature. Velcro, which is used in particular on shoes, was invented by the Swiss engineer George de Mestral. He got the idea for these fixings when he observed burdock fruits getting stuck in his dog's hair. By improving the design of these little spikes curved on themselves, he ended up inventing velcro.
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