NameBiomimicry - The practice of developing sustainable human ...-ag

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Biomimicry - The practice of developing sustainable human technologies inspired by nature. Sometimes
called Biomimetics or Bionics, it's basically biologically inspired engineering.

                                         1. Velcro
                                         The most famous example of biomimicry was the invention of
                                         Velcro brand fasteners. Invented in 1941 by Swiss engineer
                                         George de Mestral, who took the idea from the burrs that
                                         stuck tenaciously to his dog's hair. Under the microscope he
                                         noted the tiny hooks on the end of the burr's spines that
                                         caught anything with a loop - such as clothing, hair or animal
                                         fur. The 2-part Velcro fastener system uses strips or patches of
                                         a hooked material opposite strips or patches of a loose-looped
                                         weave of nylon that holds the hooks. Coolest application:
                                         Championship Velcro Jumping, first made popular in 1984 by
                                         David Letterman.

                                   2. Passive Cooling
                                   The high-rise Eastgate Centre building in Harare, Zimbabwe was
                                   designed to mimic the way that those tower-building termites in
                                   Africa construct their mounds to maintain a constant temperature.
                                   The insects do this by constantly opening and closing vents
                                   throughout the mound to manage convection currents of air -
                                   cooler air is drawn in from open lower sections while hot air
                                   escapes through chimneys. The innovative building uses similar
                                   design and air circulation planning while consuming less than 10%
                                   of the energy used in similar sized conventional buildings!

                        3. Gecko Tape
                        Ever wanted to walk up walls or across ceilings? Gecko Tape may be the way to
                        do it. The tape is a material covered with nanoscopic hairs that mimic those
                        found on the feet of gecko lizards. These millions of tiny, flexible hairs exert van
                        der Waals forces that provide a powerful adhesive effect. Applications include
                        underwater and space station uses, so researchers from a number of institutions
                        are working hard. They won't be mass producing gecko tape sneakers and
                        gloves any time soon, so Spiderman wannabes will have to wait awhile longer,
                        while hoping other biomimetic researchers get around to inventing the
                        necessary web-throwers.

4. Whalepower Wind Turbine
                                             Inspired by the flippers humpback whales use to enable
                                             their surprising agility in the water, WhalePower has
                                             developed turbine blades with bumps called tubercles on
                                             the leading edge that promise greater efficiency in
                                             applications from wind turbines to hydroelectric turbines,
                                             irrigation pumps to ventilation fans. Compared to smooth
                                             surface fins, the bumpy humpback ones have 32% less drag
                                             and an 8% increased lift in their movement through air or
                                             water. Using such blades to catch the wind as communities
                                             and nations switch to renewable sources could provide a
                                             20% increase in efficiency that will help to make wind
                                             power generation fully competitive with other alternatives.

                                             5. Lotus Effect Hydrophobia
                                             They call it "superhydrophobicity," but it's really a
                                             biomimetic application of what is known as the Lotus
                                             Effect. The surface of lotus leaves are bumpy, and this
                                             causes water to bead as well as to pick up surface
                                             contaminates in the process. The water rolls off, taking the
                                             contaminates with it. Researchers have developed ways to
                                             chemically treat the surface of plastics and metal to evoke
                                             the same effect. Applications are nearly endless, and not
                                             just making windshield wipers and car wax jobs obsolete.
                                             Lots of researchers are working on it, and General Electric's
                                             Global Research Center is busy developing coatings for
commercial application right now.

                                                  6. Self-Healing Plastics
                                                  Consider the body's power to heal itself of scrapes and
                                                  cuts. The value of the same sort of process in light polymer
                                                  composites that can be used to produce things like aircraft
                                                  fuselage becomes obvious. The new composite materials
                                                  being developed are called self-healing plastics. They are
                                                  made from hollow fibers filled with epoxy resin that is
                                                  released if the fibers suffer serious stresses and cracks. This
creates a 'scab' nearly as strong as the original material. Such self-healing materials could be used to make
planes, cars and even spacecraft that will be lighter, more fuel efficient, and safer.

                                         7. The Golden Streamlining Principle
                                         A company called PAX Scientific out of San Rafael, California has
                                         been developing air and fluid movement technologies based on
                                         such beautiful and recurring natural designs as the Fibonacci
                                         sequence, logarithmic spirals and the Golden Ratio. These shapes
                                         align with the observation that the path of least resistance in this
                                         universe isn't a straight line. Put all this together and you get the
                                         "Streamlining Principle," being applied to fans, mixers, impellers
                                         and such that move air and liquids around in systems. Such fans on
                                         motors, compressors and pumps of all sizes and in all applications
                                         could save at least 15% of all the electricity consumed in the US.

8. Artificial Photosynthesis
                                                 We all learn about photosynthesis in school, the way that
                                                 green plants use chlorophyll to convert sunlight, water and
                                                 carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen. The quest
                                                 to reproduce the process technologically is called Artificial
                                                 Photosynthesis, and is envisioned as a means of using
                                                 sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for use as
                                                 a clean fuel for vehicles as well as a way to use excess
                                                 carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The process could make
                                                 hydrogen fuel cells an efficient, self-recharging and less
                                                 expensive way to create and store energy applicable in
                                                 home and industrial systems.

                                                 9. Bionic Car
                                                 In another biomimetic development on the automotive
                                                 front, DaimlerChrysler has developed a new concept car
                                                 from Mercedes-Benz based on the shape of an odd tropical
                                                 fish - the Bionic Car. Using the shape of the tropical boxfish,
                                                 designers achieved an aerodynamic ideal that boasts 20%
                                                 less fuel consumption and as much as an 80% reduction in
                                                 nitrogen oxide emissions. The diesel-powered compact will
                                                 get about 70 miles per gallon, and can run just fine on
                                                 biodiesel fuel. It's been a few years since development, so
                                                 we can hope this car will be available soon!

                                         10. Morphing Aircraft Wings
                                         Using inspiration from both birds and fish, scientists from
                                         Penn State University developed Morphing Airplane Wings
                                         that change shape depending on the speed and duration of
                                         flight. Different birds have differently shaped wings useful
                                         for the speeds at which they fly, as well as for sustaining
                                         flight speeds over long distances using the least amount of
                                         energy. The scientists built a compliant, shape-changing
                                         truss understructure for the wings, then covered it with
                                         scales that can slide over one another to accommodate the
                                         in-flight shape changes. When deployed in new aircraft
(and drone) models, the wings are expected to conserve fuel and enable faster flights over longer

                    11. Friction-Reducing Sharkskin
                    One of the best ways to reduce reliance on fossil fuels is to achieve more efficient
                    use of the energy we do consume. Inspired by the evolved ability of shark's skin to
                    reduce drag by manipulating the boundary layer flow as the fish swims, researchers
                    are developing coatings for ship's hulls, submarines, aircraft fuselage, and even
                    swimwear for humans. Based on the varying shape and texture of shark's skin over
                    its body, Speedo's Fastskin FSII swimsuits made their appearance at the Bejing
                    Olympics and may have helped US swimmer Michael Phelps to his record eight gold
                    medals in that competition, and the rest of the team as well.

                                            12. Diatomaceous Nanotech
                                            They call it Biosilification, and it's the genetic engineering of
                                            the tiny, single-celled algae known as diatoms in order to
                                            mass produce silicon-based nanodevices and nanotubes for
                                            specific uses. Living diatoms reliably manufacture working
                                            valves of various shapes and sizes that can be used in
                                            nanodevices to deliver drugs to specific targets in the body,
                                            as chemostats in chemical engineering applications, and in
                                            colonies as nanotubes for solar collectors and artificial
                                            photosynthetic processes. Their silicon skeletons can
                                            provide specialized sensors and filters for uses in chemical
                                            engineering and defense applications.

                                               13. Glo-Fish
                                               Glow-in-the-dark aquarium fish may not fulfill a needful
                                               ecological role at the present time, but they're a fun - and
                                               lucrative - application of fluorescent proteins discovered in
                                               jellyfish while researchers are busily developing further
                                               biochemical tools from this Nobel Prizewinning discovery.
                                               The protein can be attached to other molecules of interest
                                               so they can be followed for understanding of their
                                               functions in living organisms, very useful in medical
                                               research. For the fish, the proteins serve the purpose of
simply being very cool - they come in several colors!

                                               14. Insect-Inspired Autonomous Robots
                                               While most of us are accustomed to thinking about
                                               futuristic robotics as something that looks and moves just
                                               like a human, humans are probably not the best biological
                                               model for really useful robots. For mobility, insect-like
                                               ability to cover varied terrain, climb surfaces and provide
                                               stability seems to work better. Insect eyes offer greater
                                               resolution and panoramic range for exploring places people
                                               cannot go, and the ability to quickly adapt to changing
                                               environments (or even to spy on enemies undetected)
                                               make those annoying toy insect robots a forerunner for
                                               future applications in exploration and defense.

                                              15. Butterfly-Inspired Displays
                                              By mimicking the way light reflects from the scales on a
                                              butterfly's wings, the Qualcomm company has developed
                                              Mirasol Displays that make use of the reflected light
                                              principle with an understanding of how human beings
                                              perceive that light. Using an interferometric modulator
                                              [IMOD] element in a two-plate conductive system, the
                                              display uses near-zero power whenever the displayed image
                                              is static while at the same time offering a refresh rate fast
                                              enough for video. Perfect for 'smart' hand-held devices,
                                              already deployed in many, and a battery-saver

Whale biomimicry inspires better wind turbines
July 7, 2008

By studying and mimicking the characteristics of the
flippers, fins and tails of whales and dolphins,
engineers have devised more a efficient way to
generate wind power, reports a researcher presenting
at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual
Meeting in Marseille, France.

Dr Frank Fish of West Chester University says that the
shape of whale flippers has inspired the creation of a
completely novel design for wind turbine blades.

"Engineers have previously tried to ensure steady flow patterns on rigid and simple lifting surfaces, such
as wings. The lesson from biomimicry is that unsteady flow and complex shapes can increase lift, reduce
drag and delay 'stall', a dramatic and abrupt loss of lift, beyond what existing engineered systems can
accomplish," Fish said. "There are even possibilities that this technology could be applied to aeronautical
designs such as helicopter blades
in the future."
The research, which was funded
by the US National Science
Foundation and the US Office of
Naval Research, looked specifically
at the vortices formed in the wake
of the marine mammals.

"In the case of the humpback
whale, vortices formed from
tubercles (bumps) on the front
edge of flippers help to generate
more lift without the occurrence
of stall, as well as enhancing
maneuverability and agility," he
explained. "In the case of the tails
of dolphins, vortices are formed at      Large vortices are formed behind the troughs along the leading
                                         edge whereas flow behind the tubercles forms straight
the end of the up and down
                                         streamlines. The effect of these flow patterns induced by the
strokes. These vortices are              tubercles is to delay stall. Credit: E. Paterson
involved in the production of a jet
in the wake of the dolphin that produces high thrust. By regulating the production of the vortices, the
dolphin can maximize its efficiency while swimming."

Fish, F. E., Howle, L. E. and Murray, M. M. 2008. Hydrodynamic flow control in marine mammals;
Integrative and Comparative Biology 211: 1859-1867.

Financial crisis could pave way for greener economy inspired by nature.
October 20, 2008

Biomimicry — the use of nature to inspire design — could serve as a model for a greener economy that
rises out of the ashes of the financial crisis, said experts meeting at a sustainability conference in the San
Francisco Bay Area.

Speaking at the three-day Bioneers conference in San Rafael, Janine Benyus, a leading voice in the
emerging field of biomimicry, said that nature offers lessons that can be applied to build better and more
sustainable products and services as well as economic models.

"At the same time that we were meeting there was this economic quake going on," she said, referring to
her attendance of the IUCN meeting in Barcelona two weeks ago. "All these crystal gobblets going off the
table and crashing. We'd wake up in the morning and come from our hotel room and there would be all
these newspapers from all over the world and they all had the same pictures... of people with their heads
in the hands like a Godzilla film going 'ahhhh'. That's the sound of the old paradigm falling."

Noting that many companies and entrepreneurs are using nature's models "to redesign everything",
Benyus said she hoped the economy could become more like the food web of an old-growth forest where
"nothing is lost."

"That's the way our economy needs to work," she explained. "One company's discards being hungrily
gobbled by the next company — sharing resources in a food web that considers everything precious."

"When you look at the water
coming out of a very mature
forest, there's hardly anything in
it in terms of nutrients," she
continued. "[These have] been
pulled up by this forest and used
over and over again. That's
where we have to be as well."

Jay Harman, President and CEO            Janine Benyus speaking at the Bioneers conference
of PAX Scientific, a company that
develops highly efficient industrial equipment based on patterns found in nature, added that the current
economic crisis offers "an incredible opportunity" for developing a more sustainable economy.

"Everything is melting down [but this] is an incredible opportunity for a new economy... There are an
awful a lot of new ideas for the new economy that haven't been put on the table yet," he said during a
panel discussion entitled "Nature's Best: Biomimicry's Climate-Change Solutions" with Benyus; Stephen
Dewar of WhalePower, a company developing wind and hydro turbines, pumps, and fans based on the
design of whale flippers; and Charles Hamilton, president of Novomer, a firm producing biodegradable
plastics using carbon dioxide as a feedstock. "There is a historic tide of new thinking and new business

"Nature has already solved almost every problem," he continued. "Nature is clean, green, and
sustainable... Biomimciry is still a very fresh movement."

"This is a huge opportunity to see the biomemetic design in the flesh," added Benyus.

"Open secrets of nature"
While designers have long been inspired by nature, the idea that the world around us can be used as a
3.8-billion-year-old R&D lab for technology development is gaining momentum. Benyus, author of
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature and founder of the nonprofit Biomimicry Institute, reviewed
dozens of examples she and her
colleagues have come across
while      reviewing      scientific
 “We      went      through     the
biological literature. We had a
list     of     life’s     greatest
sustainability challenges on our
left hand and on our right we
had scientific papers and we
filtered through,” she said.
“When we finally had to stop we       The leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus) is found on the island
had over 2100 phenomenal              of Madagascar. Gecko’s feet are being used as a model to design
ideas. Things that have been          a a biodegradable surgical adhesive that dissolves harmlessly
mimicked, things that should be       after an injury heals.
mimicked and have not yet

Benyus organized the ideas by function and found that nature has come up with many approaches to
solving difficult challenges that presently confront humankind, including 49 new ways to generate energy,
23 new ways to absorb water and 44 ways to store it, 58 new ways to manage extreme temperatures, 42
news ways to cooperate, and more than 180 ways to communicate.

“Do we need 146 ways to do water-based chemistry?” she asked. “You bet. We [currently] use toxic

She cited many examples of companies using nature's best
ideas to develop products and services including Aquaporin,
a Danish outfit developing cell membrane-inspired water
purification technology; Biosignal, an Australian firm that
has developed a red algae-inspired bacteria shield that
doesn't breed antibiotic resistance; Cambridge Biostability,
a company developing a plant-inspired technology that
enables vaccines to be stored without the need for
refrigeration; PureBond, a mussel-inspired wood adhesive
from Colombia Forest Products; BioPower Systems, a
company working on a kelp-inspired wave energy harvester;
Speedo's LZR Racer suit, worn by gold medal winner
Michael Phelps, and modeled after shark skin; leaf-inspired
solar cells from Dyesol and Konarka; Calera, a firm which
uses carbon dioxide as a feedstock for concrete much like
corals; as well as WhalePower, Novomer, and Pax Scientific. The stomach microbes of termites are
She said nature offers models to sequester carbon while being studies for the development of
increasing the fertility of soils and water; travel without more sustainable and higher yielding
harmful emissions or congestion; produce food and fuel biofuels. Credit: David Gilbert, DOE Joint
without pesticides or diminishing biodiversity; and harvest Genome Institute
water       in     ways      never    before      imagined.
Benyus said that biomimicry does more than just inspire design, it creates powerful new incentives for
conserving biodiversity.

"For me this is a new way of viewing and valuing biodiversity," she said, adding that a new initiative
( will encourage firms that use nature as a model for design to donate a
portion of their proceeds to conservation of the species and habitats which inspired their work.

Her Biomimicry Institute is also developing a resource to facilitate easier use of nature's models:
AskNature, a web site with biological information organized by function. The site will be integrated with
Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson's ambitious Encyclopedia of Life, a site that aims to create a web page for
every one of Earth's species.

Shark biomimicry produces renewable energy system
Rhett Butler
November 1, 2006

Tidal energy conversion system produces no pollutant and minimal environmental impact
An Australian firm has developed a renewable tidal energy conversion system based on the highly
efficient fin structure of shark, tuna, and mackerel. BioPower Systems Pty Ltd., a renewable energy
systems company based in Eveleigh, New South Wales, says that its bioSTREAM technology for converting
tidal and marine current energy into electricity is modeled on biological species, such as shark and tuna,
that use Thunniform-mode swimming propulsion.

"The motions, mechanisms, and caudal fin hydrofoil shapes of such species have been optimized by
natural selection and are known to be up to 90% efficient at converting body energy into propulsive
force," said BioPower Systems in a media release. "The bioSTREAM™ mimics the shape and motion
characteristics of these species but is a fixed device in a moving stream... By mimicking these creatures,
the bioSTREAM benefits from 3.8 billion years of evolutionary hydrodynamic optimization. The inherited
biological traits result in a cost effective and reliable renewable energy system."

The firm said that with few moving parts, the technology is cost
effective and requires low maintenance, while it is "environmentally
benign" with a small footprint and minimal seabed disturbance.
BioSTREAM is also robust, designed to withstand hurricanes and
strong ocean currents.

BioPower Systems is currently developing 500kW, 1000kW and
2000kW versions of the device.

BioPower Systems is a startup company founded by Dr. Timothy
Finnigan, a marine engineer at the University of Sydney. The firm says
its technologies are undergoing proof-of-concept R&D, but that full-
scale ocean-based prototypes will be tested in 2008 and commercial
units are expected to ship by the end of 2009.                             bioSTREAM

You are part of a team of engineers given the challenge of developing a system or building that
incorporates bio-mimicry principles. You'll research ideas online, submit a proposal for funding then work
as a team to design and construct either a prototype or scale model of the project. You'll present your
designs to your class.

Major Grade 1: Proposal
Working together (no more than three students per team) students will submit a proposal for their
prototype. The proposal should include specific information regarding the purpose of device as well
specific measurements and provide step-by-step guidelines on how to build the prototype, and what
types of materials are used in the construction.

Before you turn in this phase of the project
     FORMAT: Is the proposal typed and professional in appearance? No proposal will be accepted
         that is handwritten, colored in crayon, colored pencil or marker, wrinkled, perforated or
         otherwise sloppy.
     DESIGN TEAM: Are all team members name’s on the paper?
     TITLE: Does the project have a title? (profanity or silly names will NOT be accepted)
     ABSTRACT: Does the proposal have an abstract? An abstract should be one page (typed)
         outlining the basic purpose of the project (what the device is going to be used for). The summary
         should also include an overview of the basic research used in creating the prototype.
     PURPOSE: In one sentence, outline the topic and the purpose of your research or design
     PROBLEM AND JUSTIFICATION: State clearly and justify the problem or issue to be addressed in
         relation to the particular development context in which your research/design project will take
         place. This is a very important section of the proposal. It’s basically where YOU are convincing
         the client to provide funding for your project. Correct spelling and grammar are important.
     SCOPE: Specify the focus of your investigation, setting the limits of your research/design project
         in terms of the work to be produced, the particular time period, the specific geographical area(s)
         and group(s) of people involved (where applicable).
     DEFINITIONS: Provide the definition of the key terms and themes to be explored in the context
         of your research or design project.

      OBJECTIVES: Provide a clear and concise description of what you plan to achieve over the course
       of the project, identifying the goals, the main and specific objectives. These goals and objectives
       should be both concrete and measurable, and against which your project’s achievement could
       be assessed.
      THEORETICAL APPROACH & FRAMEWORK: For this section of the proposal you need to go to
       the library or use the internet and do some research on your project. Then use that information
       to explain the theoretical approach or perspective which helped you understand the problem
       and formulate your hypothesis. Identify the knowledge gaps your research will address to
       contribute to the advancement of knowledge. Or in other words, why you think there is a
       problem and why you think what you are doing will help solve that.
      FEASABILITY: Discuss any possible obstacles your group will encounter in building the prototype.
       These may include expected difficulties in securing access to data, materials, tools, etc.

Major Grade 2: Design Journal
Students will document their efforts to construct their prototype. Each group will be responsible for one
journal. The journal will include a step by step guide to the construction of their model, all materials
actually used, as well as any design challenges and questions the group had while making the prototype.

Before you turn in this phase of the project, your design journal MUST include:
     FORMAT: The design journal must be contained in a loose-leaf style notebook or folder specific
         for this project (spiral bound notebooks or stapled notes will NOT be accepted). Entries in the
         journal must be handwritten (preferably printed) in ink (no work turned in pencil will be
         accepted). The journal may NOT have excessive scratch outs (a single line through a word is
         sufficient), any non project-related graphics (no doodles or other drawings) and must be neat in
         appearance (no torn pages, stained pages, etc.) Any work that does not meet these
         specifications will be returned with NO GRADE and the students will be required to re-do the
     RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND INITIAL HYPOTHESIS: In one or two pages, break down your
         research problem into specific research questions which you will address; in each case state your
         working hypothesis.
     OBJECTIVES: Provide a clear and concise description of what you plan to achieve over the course
         of the project, identifying the goals, the main and specific objectives. These goals and objectives
         should be both concrete and measurable, and against which your project’s achievement could
         be assessed. As part of the design journal you should note when you have achieved these goals.
     METHODOLOGY: Describe in specific detail the methods and techniques you plan to apply or
         develop to build your prototype. Be mindful of the limitations your group will have in terms of
         time, finances and tools. Discuss these limitations and the challenges they presented to your
         group. BE SPECIFIC. Suggest alternatives for a follow-up project or research based on your
         group’s efforts.

Major Grade 3: Finished Prototype
Working in groups of three individuals, the students will design and build their prototype using only
available materials. Designs will be judged based on functionality, creativity and aesthetic design.

Before you turn in this phase of the project
     SIZE: The finished prototype cannot be larger than 2ft. x 2ft. x 2ft.
     APPEARANCE: The finished prototype must appear as if it were designed and built by
         professional engineers/architects. It must be uniform in color/design, contain no jagged or sharp
         edges (unless they are specific to the function of the prototype).

      TEAM LOGO: The finished prototype must include a professional logo or emblem which is
       designed by your team. This logo cannot be copied from a pre-existing source (i.e. you can’t use
       the Nike “Swoosh”) and must be original.
      FUNCTIONALITY: If the prototype is a device then it has to work and must include all relative
       components to its functionality (batteries, moving parts, etc). If the prototype is a scale model of
       a structure, then it must be to scale with additional figures, objects etc. to indicate relative size.
       For example: if your prototype is a new kind of office building design, it must include scale mock-
       ups of people, cars, outdoor trees, etc.

Major Grade 4: Presentation
At the end of the project, the group will compile the information from their efforts (photos, designs, etc)
into a power point or other presentation which they will then present to the class. They will then lead
and participate in follow-up Q&A sessions regarding their design.

Before you turn in this phase of the project
     GRAPHICS AND SOUND: The presentation must be constructed using Microsoft Power Point or
        Animoto. The graphics must be in color and include animations and sound to enhance the
        viewing experience. Presentations lacking these qualities will NOT be graded.
     PICTURES AND VIDEO: The presentation must include photos showing team members working
        at various stages of the project as well as contain graphics of the finished prototype. If the device
        has moving parts than a short video of the prototype in action is REQUIRED.
     TEXT: The presentation must contain all relevant information regarding the project: names of
        the design team, problem and justification, objectives, methodology and functionality.
     Q & A: All members of the design team must be present for the Q & A session. Audience
        members and judges should be able to ask any member of the team any question about the
        project and receive an acceptable answer. When appearing for the Q&A session, team members
        should be professionally dressed (no sagging pants, collared shirts, boys should wear ties if
        possible, etc.)

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