The Snail and the Dirt-Proof Wall
Japan is home to lots of different species of animals and plants that have lived alongside human beings since ancient times. The study of nature has often inspired scientists and inventors to come up with new ideas for improving people's lives.
A snail shell, and tiles for an outside wall inspired by snail shells. (C)INAX
Inventors at a housing materials company were trying to make a wall that would stay clean. The inspiration for their successful design came from snails. The inventors noticed something strange about snails—no matter how dirty the ground around them, their shells always seemed to stay clean. They carried out a detailed study of snails and their shells, and found out that the shells are patterned with thin, regularly spaced ridges. The surface of the ridges is covered with a thin film of water, and when the scientists put grease on the shell the water in the ridges made it run off right away. In nature, dirt runs off in the same way. Inspired by the snail's amazing shells, the company's inventors came up with a new kind of tile that protects walls against dirt.
In this way, many researchers in Japan have taken ideas from the natural world and used them to make our lives easier and more convenient.