Biomimetic vs. Bioinspired: Is There a Difference?

The terms biomimetic and bioinspired are often used almost interchangeably, because they do describe very similar concepts. In both cases, the idea is to replicate some property or function of a biological system. The biomimetic approach most commonly strives to achieve this goal by reproducing some aspects of the biological system, for example, early plane designs that involved flapping wings can be considered as biomimetics of birds. In contrast, bioinspired approach aims to discover and capture an essential idea that underpins a biological system, so that the same idea can be implemented technologically.

The two approaches are not mutually exclusive, i.e., in many cases a biomimetic solution can provide the best technological implementation of a bioinspired design, but a biomimetic solution is not always optimal from an engineering prospective. The modern technology of powered flight, for example, is dominated by designs that are bioinspired (by the idea of using a wing for flight), but distinctly not biomimetic. Fixed-wing aircraft turns out to be a more efficient solution for carrying cargo than are designs that replicate flapping wings of birds. Not too surprising, perhaps, as typical birds did not evolve based on capacity to carry heavy cargo across long distances.


Understanding how a biological system functions is an important first step in biomimetic and bioinspired design.

Physical Biology of the Cell
by Rob Phillips, Janč Kondev, and Julie Theriot
Garland Science, 2009
ISBN 0815341636, 9780815341635
Preview on Google Books
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