The Pescara river springs were a place of inspiration and study for the famous inventor
Starting from the Pescara river springs and observing its flora and fauna, Corradino D’Ascanio began to develop some of his best-known inventions. The study, carried out from the orthoptera and samare found in the Reserve, has now become a true branch of science known as biomimesis. Biomimesis deals with the study of nature and then relies on it to develop new designs and inventions.
It was from a hill near the Pescara river springs that engineer D’Ascanio, still a teenager, attempted his first flight with rudimentary wings made of wooden slats and newspaper sheets.
In a letter dated 1930, D’Ascanio wrote: ‘With what I earned from designing anything I was asked to do (a bakery, a house, the town square, the war memorial), the universities sent me the appropriate material to study the flight of orthopterans and odonates. Put like that, they sound like strange animals, but they are the ones like the crickets and dragonflies that you always see in the fields when you go out to play, do you know them? Nature holds so many answers and it’s just a matter of going and finding them in the right place, the ones we desire. One has to be curious…”
Animals and plants are tools at our disposal that can help us improve technologically, and D’Ascanio was able to read this information well before any other scientist, taking advantage of the incredible variety of animals and plants in our reserve. He developed the study of the helicopter propeller starting from the simple fall of a fruit, the samara, a maple fruit with an extended and expanded shape that when it falls from the tree can hover in the air for a long time, favouring a better spread of the seeds. Engineer D’Ascanio relied not only on plants to develop helicopters, but also on insects such as the dragonfly, an animal capable of whirling through the air at will. Its movement was improved and adapted to our technology, resulting in better functioning helicopters and today’s drones. D’Ascanio was also inspired by insects to create the famous Vespa, which has several points in common with the animal of the same name.
Biomimesis is currently widely used in projects aiming at more ecological technologies, such as wind turbines inspired by dragonfly wings in Japan or artificial leaves to harness the process of photosynthesis as an energy source, developed in the United States. The results of biomimetic engineering can now be seen everywhere, and it all began in the hills of the city of Popoli.
Just to give an example, a biomimetic invention is Velcro, developed in 1941 by the Swiss engineer George De Mestral, who was inspired by the flowers that clung to his dog’s fur, noticing that they had micro-hooks. From those flowers, the Swiss inventor brought Velcro to the world, which we all know and use today, for example in the classic fastening strips of jackets and vests.
‘One has to be curious’, said D’Ascanio.
Written by: Roberto Flauto, translated by: Luca Di Gregorio
Project: work-school with the “Amedeo di Savoia” high school (Popoli).