How whales can help planes to fly better, by Prince Charles

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London, Oct 20 (ANI): Prince Charles has highlighted the extraordinary advances being made with the help of lessons learned from the natural world in his new book 'Harmony.'

In this extract, the Prince of Wales reveals how the relatively new study of 'biomimicry' is helping scientists to learn how to make self-cleaning buildings, paint without using chemicals and even build better aircraft.

Nature could be a powerful inspiration in facing the engineering and resource challenges of the coming decades, reports the Sun.

A hugely exciting branch of engineering is based on the harnessing of solutions to problems developed through hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

It is called "biomimicry", which means "the imitation of life".

Many of the solutions that must be mobilised to meet the needs of our expanding population without destroying the natural world that sustains us have already been invented - not by scientists in laboratories, but through the aeons of trials and tests that have taken place in Nature. I want to offer a few of the many exciting innovations that are coming out of this new blend of physics, biology and engineering:

"PAINT" FROM BUTTERFLIES: The next time you see a brightly coloured butterfly and give the graceful creature hardly a second thought, just remember on its delicate wings it might carry, not just the body of an insignificant insect, but also the means to do away with chemical pigments.

Many of their bright colours are not colours at all, but the result of an illusion created by tiny layers of membrane in the nanostructures of their wing scales that interfere with the light. Now biomimetic engineers have mimicked this to give surfaces colour without the need for chemical pigments.

SELF-CLEANING BUILDINGS: Reducing the need for cleaning materials, such as detergents, is another possible way for us to diminish our demands on the Earth.

Lotus plants live in muddy ponds, but somehow manage to keep their leaves spotlessly clean and shiny.

Engineers studying them found their secret lies in microscopic structures on the leaf that stop water droplets getting a grip.

A kind of paint called Lotusan works through replicating the surface of the leaf. It is applied as a surface to man-made structures so that when it rains the surface - for instance the inaccessible exterior of a tall building - cleans itself.

THE PERFECT WING: Unlike commercial aircraft wings with a straight leading edge, the leading edge of a humpback whale's flippers is scalloped with prominent knobs called "tubercles".

Surprisingly, in wind-tunnel experiments, scalloped designs were found to have 32 per cent lower drag, eight per cent better life properties and could withstand stall at a 40 per cent steeper wind angle.

This is already being used in helicopter rotors, propellers and ship rudders.(ANI)

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