ProjectsPast and current JFS projects


[Get Inspired by Nature] Inspired by Movement

This page is devoted to both Japanese and overseas examples of technology derived from the study of movement in animals and plants.
(See "Table legend" at the bottom of this page for an explanation of table content)

Photo by richard ling
Giant kelp
Keeps its grip even in rough seas
Bladders to provide buoyancy in water
Giant kelp attaches to the sea bed or rocks, and has gas-filled bladders at the base of fronds to provide buoyancy to the whole plant.
Wave power generators
BioPower Systems
AskNature: bioWAVETM -- Wave power anchoring system based on undersea plants
Amazing Nature Database: Learning new ways of tapping wave power from giant kelp (Japanese only)

Photo by foto footprints
Slime mold
Moves in search of food
Finding the shortest distance without a brain
The slime mold spreads in all directions at first, but on finding food, leaves just the most efficiently connected branches, and retracts the rest.
Urban waterway, electricity, road and other networks
AskNature: Cytoplasm seeks efficient routes -- slime mold
Amazing Nature Database: How slime molds build efficient networks (Japanese only)


Photo by nialkennedy
Tidal power generation systems
Swim efficiently just by swinging the tailfin like a pendulum
Generation of electricity by converting the to and fro movement of tidal flow into rotational movement that can turn turbines
BioPower Systems
AskNature: bioSTREAM&trade -- tidal energy
Amazing Nature Database: Learning from tuna to develop novel tidal power systems (Japanese only)

Photo by merfam
Never stops moving
Pump that prevents backflow and can also adjust pressure
The heart uses valves to prevent backflow, and adjusts pressure to ensure one-way circulation of a constant amount of blood to every part of the body.
Pumps in factories, artificial hearts, etc.
AskNature: Valves handle high pressures -- humans
Amazing Nature Database: The human heart, a multifunctional pump (Japanese only)

Photo by Jo?o de Deus Medeiros
Maranta (prayer plant)
Moves leaves in response to sunlight
Automatic sunlight adjustment system
Maranta moves its leaves according to quantity and angle of sunlight, opening its leaves downward in daytime and closing them at night.
Application to blinds, solar panels and roofs
Amazing Nature Database: Maranta, a plant that moves in response to light (Japanese only)

Photo by PaulS
Imparts information to nest mates through dancing
Efficient division of labor
Honeybees use various dances to communicate information on the direction and distance to patches of flowers, type of nectar, whether there are enough worker bees, etc.
Algorithms that generate the most efficient division of labor
Amazing Nature Database: How honeybees use dances to allocate jobs (Japanese only)


Photo by MollaAliod
Shoals of fish
Swimming without colliding into other fish in the same shoal
Robot cars
Fish sense each other's presence through their eyes and lateral lines, and maintain an appropriate distance.
Driverless cars that use laser beams to measure distances and drive themselves
Nissan and other car manufacturers
Nissan Motor's EPORO robot car (Japanese only)


Photo by Pacific Southwest Region
Flocks of birds
Fly without colliding with other birds in the same flock
Artificial life simulation program that can reproduce flock movement in video
Birds follow three simple behavioral rules to prevent collisions with other birds no matter how large the flock is.
Development of robots capable of avoiding obstacles as they move for exploration of other planets or disaster sites, etc.
Computer program: Craig Reynolds
Robot development: The Free University of Brussels, etc.
Amazing Nature Database: "Boids" that avoid collision no matter how many there are (Japanese only)


Photo by
Ant swarms
Form processions
Transport algorithms
Ants secrete pheromones as they move. Other ants detect those pheromones and follow the trail.
Determination of shortest transport routes
Santa Fe Institute, Free University of Brussels, etc.
Amazing Nature Database: The processions that swarming ants create(Japanese only)
National Geographic: Swarm theory (Japanese only)


Photo by Lip Kee
Speedy drilling of holes in hard tree trunks
Motorcyclist helmets, mountaineering ice axes
Woodpeckers use head and beak muscles to protect their brains from shock, and apply the principle of leverage to pound their beaks vertically into a tree trunk.
Softening the shock and vibration of jackhammers and drills, absorbing the shaking of buildings during earthquakes
AskNature: Head structures absorb shock -- golden-fronted woodpecker
Amazing Nature Database: Learning new ways of absorbing shocks from the woodpecker, a hole driller that never gets a headache (Japanese only)


Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey
Eats wood as it bores holes
Shield tunneling
The shipworm uses the hard shell on the tip of its head to bore into wood while keeping it from caving in. It also uses secretions from its mouth to line the inside of the hole with a hard tube.
Digging tunnels in crumbly earth or underwater
Marc Isambard Brunel
AskNature: Head bores through wood -- shipworm
Nature Technology Database: The shipworm, a tunneling wizard that inspired shield tunneling (Japanese only)
Japan Society of Civil Engineers: Doing great things with shield tunneling (Japanese only)

Table legend ask-nature01.jpg
photo creditLike ... (plant or animal)
What it is or does
Natural process involved
Potential application for human society
Researcher or research organization
Information source

ask-nature01.jpgThis mark signifies an example that has already been commercialized.

This project has been funded by Hitachi Environment Foundation under its fiscal 2011 funding program for NPOs.