The Angular Boxfish and The Mercedes Benz Bionic Car

September 9, 2008 By Sam

Man borrows a lot from nature in his application of technology, like when the bat provided inspiration for sonar – a system using transmitted and reflected underwater sound waves to detect and locate submerged objects or measure the distance to the floor of a body of water.

Bionic engineers are specialists in translating nature’s solutions into human technology and attempt to answer questions such as why nocturnal animals like bats which are known to be blind can adapt to use echolocation by which they navigate and hunt prey.

Daimler AG, the automotive manufacturer that claims to act responsibly towards society and the environment and to shape the future of safe and sustainable mobility with groundbreaking technologies, too use bionics to design their top-end cars.

The Mercedes-Benz bionic car is a concept that borrows from the angular body of the boxfish to create a vehicle that conforms with the natural rigidity and aerodynamics of this small tropical fish having body and head encased in bony plates, also called the trunkfish.

Daimler automotive engineers envisioned that since its rectangular anatomy was practically identical to the cross-section of a car body, it could be the perfect model for a unique automotive development project – and I think that took some great boldness.

This was full application of bionics, a science concerned with the application of data about the functioning of biological systems to the solution of engineering problems, and the Mercedes Benz concept vehicle project involved automotive researchers, biologists and bionics scientists in pioneering teamwork.

It has a specially designed body with the silhouette of a boxfish and a panoramic windscreen under a roof structure with large areas of glass.

From the website:

Nature is also a model of sustainability
Bionics research does not mean copying nature. The aim is rather to understand its principles and use them as a stimulus for innovations. The inventions of nature, which have been developed and continuously improved over millions of years, provide an inexhaustible reservoir of ideas and inspirations from which not only technology can benefit. More than ever before, bionics can also further the cause of environmental protection. Many of the innovative concepts which engineers and scientists are adopting from nature correspond to the principle of sustainability. Nature always achieves its objectives economically, with the minimum energy, conserves its resources and completely recycles its waste – an example which is well worth following.
When it premiered at the Daimler Chrysler Innovation Symposium in Washington, DC three years ago, it was greeted with great enthusiasm.
Really, the engineers at Daimler proved that there was great potential of bionics for automobile development having achieved outstanding results for fuel consumption and emissions – 20% lower fuel consumption and up to 80% lower nitrogen oxide emissions compared with others in its class.
For four months -between February and May this year, the concept model of the Mercedes Benz bionic car appeared as part of the “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibition at the “MoMA” showcased trailblazing innovations in the fields of design and science, and honored the “powers of innovation, based on extremely flexible trains of thought” behind the Mercedes Benz bionic car.
The moral of this story is that bionics will continue to be part of innovations, and creativity comes with it.

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Reader Comments

Whether you believe in an Almighty "engineer" or that what we see in nature today is the result of millions of years of trial and error, either way nature can sure teach us humans a hell of a lot.
Posted by Paul on September 17, 2011

I like technology which emerge with what nature has to offer, it seems like there is anything we might need is already exist in the nature. I've read the article how they cure drug and alcohol addition with sounds of the nature. Very interesting
Posted by cyber security program on August 15, 2011

Nature is the greatest source of inspiration. It's no surprise to me that BMW is using a fish for a concept idea. The definitions and lines of the car are definitely exceptional and I look for more nature inspired models in the future. Especially as technology advances.
Posted by ZoomZoom44 on August 11, 2011

Very interesting design I should say; very creative as well. I love the sleek look of the car. Nature really does inspire a lot of people.
Posted by Indiebike on May 17, 2011

This is indeed very interesting as I have always wondered where do the creative gents at all these automotive companies get their inspiration from! At our BMW showroom, I see new designs almost every year and now I'll really be able to make some guesses around the fact whether the new beamer that just rolled in was bionics inspired or not! Thanks for sharing!

Brett M.W.
Webmaster, BMW Phoenix
Posted by Brett Michael Williams on May 10, 2011

Very interesting use of nature.

My co-author, Stephen Grossman, and I have studied this nature-invention relationship for a long time. It's probably safe to say that Mother Nature has solved just about any problem we might ever confront.

One small nit: our friends the bat, who have taught us many things, are not blind. They see and even use their vision along with echolocation when flying.
Posted by Peter Lloyd on September 18, 2008

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