biomimicry
(bye.oh.MIM.uh.kree) n. Manufacturing principles and practices that mimic natural materials or processes. Also: bio-mimicry.
biomimetic (bye.oh.mi.MET.ik) adj. Relating to a substance or process that uses such mimicry.

Example Citation:
Ron Miles wants to put a bug in your ear. More specifically, a bug's ear, or rather a replica of one. Miles, a vibrations and acoustics expert at SUNY at Binghamton, is actually trying to replicate the incredibly accurate hearing mechanism of a rare fly — the Ormia ochracea — and use it to create everything from the world's most sophisticated hearing aid to tiny microphones that might help catch the future Osama bin Ladens of the world. It's all part of biomimicry, an attempt to mold technology on nature.
—Rob Turner, "Super Fly," The New York Times, January 13, 2002

Earliest Citation:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) ultimate goal is to ensure that the military has the most advanced technology available in the form of affordable products today. ... A portion of the biotechnology effort studies biological approaches to detecting chemical and biological agents. Another portion investigates a concept termed "bio-mimicry," analyzing nature for military use.
—Sheila Galatowitsch, "DARPA: Turning ideas into products," Defense Electronics, July 1, 1991

Notes:
The word biomimicry may be new, but the concept isn't. One of my favorite examples involves a Swiss inventor named George de Mestral. An avid hiker, de Mestral was plagued by burrs sticking tenaciously to his tweed pants. Curious about the source of this adherence, he examined the burrs and found they contained tiny, hook-like spears that had a natural tendency to attach themselves to the miniature loops found in the fabric. Thus inspired, de Mestral spent years trying to mimic the same mechanism and, in late 50s, showed the world his new invention: Velcro.

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