Bionics (also known as biomimicry, biomimetics, bio-inspiration, biognosis, and close to bionical creativity engineering) is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology.
The word bionic was coined by Jack E. Steele in 1958, possibly originating from the technical term bion (pronounced bee-on) (from Ancient Greek: βίος), meaning 'unit of life' and the suffix -ic, meaning 'like' or 'in the manner of', hence 'like life'. Some dictionaries, however, explain the word as being formed as a portmanteau from biology + electronics. It was popularized by the 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, which were influenced by Steele's work, and feature humans given superhuman powers by electromechanical implants.
The transfer of technology between lifeforms and manufactures is, according to proponents of bionic technology, desirable because evolutionary pressure typically forces living organisms, including fauna and flora, to become highly optimized and efficient. A classical example is the development of dirt- and water-repellent paint (coating) from the observation that the surface of the lotus flower plant is practically unsticky for anything (the lotus effect).
The term "biomimetic" is preferred when reference is made to chemical reactions. In that domain, biomimetic chemistry refers to reactions that, in nature, involve biological macromolecules (for example, enzymes or nucleic acids) whose chemistry can be replicated using much smaller molecules in vitro.
Examples of bionics in engineering include the hulls of boats imitating the thick skin of dolphins; sonar, radar, and medical ultrasound imaging imitating the echolocation of bats.
In the field of computer science, the study of bionics has produced artificial neurons, artificial neural networks, and swarm intelligence. Evolutionary computation was also motivated by bionics ideas but it took the idea further by simulating evolution in silico and producing well-optimized solutions that had never appeared in nature.
It is estimated by Julian Vincent, professor of biomimetics at the University of Bath's department of mechanical engineering (Biomimetics group), that "at present there is only a 12% overlap between biology and technology in terms of the mechanisms used".