How biomimicry helped the new Indian bullet train
By Seema Anand & Prashant Dhawan, Biomimicry India
When the proposed bullet train (Shinkansen) between Ahmedabad & Mumbai glides almost noiselessly in & out of the stations and the various tunnels on route, it is thanks to the kingfisher bird, the owl and the adélie penguin! Here’s why.
In the initial years the big technical challenge was not increasing the speed but decreasing the loud noise (sonic boom) the bullet train generated while moving in and out of tunnels.
The train also generated a loud noise when the pantograph (the part connecting the train to overhead wires) vibrated, primarily due to wind resistance. Japanese engineer EijiNakatsu found inspiration for the solution to this problem by studying and emulating the features of three different birds!
Just like the Shinkansen there are many examples where emulating ideas found in nature have helped improve the solutions to human challenges. This is an example of ‘biomimicry’.
Biomimicry is a scientific discipline and approach, which helps one learn from the patterns and strategies found in nature to find better and sustainable solutions to human problems. Biomimicry helps us access and learn from the biggest and best repository of knowledge - 3.8 billion years of the distilled knowledge embedded in the lifeforms on earth! There are infinite amount of solutions we can find through biomimicry to human challenges. The biomimicry approach is new but fast emerging and holds the promise of enabling us to find a sustainable way of life on earth.
Due to the unique shape of its beak, the kingfisher can dive into water with barely any splash.
The owl is a silent flier. This is due to its saw-toothed wave feathers called “serration feathers” which emit almost no noise while flying.
The adélie penguin easily glides within water with minimum resistance. This is due to its almost spindle like body shape.