Powered by Squarespace
This area does not yet contain any content.
« Food Security - new resources | Main | Join the Do Lectures »

Biomimicry - Inspired by Nature

The University of Salford's Trevor Cox explores biomimicry with experts including Michael Pawyln, EcoSapiens associate and 2009 Do Lectures speaker, HRH Prince of Wales and thinkers at the front of technology and design. Michael  talks about the way that inspriation comes from natural forms, natural processes and natural systems, and these systems are picked up in turn by Trevor Cox. Listen to the article on the BBC's iplayer . Examples talked about include

  • Velcro - insight from the stickiness of burdock burrs on a pet dog's fur created a new way of temporarily stikin things together
  • Plastic wood made from glass fibre which replicates the performance of wood with changed scale and materials, keeping the proerties that makes it work. Advantages of going 'beyond wood' inckude create materials which don't move and are temperature stable.
  • Pine cones have inspired inspired fabric, includes one made by Schoeller that has panels that open when it gets warm, using the same mechanism that the pine cones use to open in dry weather to drop their seeds, and close when it's cold
  • Lotus leaves with their nano-rough surface ensure that dirt particles 'wobble' on the rough parts of the surface, allowing water droplets to collect dirt iand roll it off in the same way that snowballs that pick up moss and grass when moved
  • The Namibian Fog Basking Dune Beetle has found a way of harvesting water from its matt black shell. During the day the shell heats up and at night uses it to collect water that condenses, with effectiveness increased by hydrophilic coatings, allowing the beetle to run the water to its mouth; Michael Pawlyn and Charlie Paton have used this to create the Salt Water Greenhouse that turns sea water to fresh using processes inspired by the beetle
  • Mutualistic relationships are abundant in nature and are used with the saltwater greenhouse - working out one technology that could work with with the greenhouse is concentrated solar power (CSP); huge heat-focusing mirrors that need to be cleaned with demineralised water and produce waste heat. The salt water greenhouses produce the water needed for CSP and benefit from more heat...
  • Janine Benyus talked of taking engineers to the Galapagos Islands, and looked at the way that shells crystalise limited amounts of calcium carbonate to create shells - they worked out from shell inspiration how to stop scaling in pipes, a huge issue in industry.
  • Michael talking about the remarkable efficiency of natural systems, and the scheme that Graham Wiles has set up - The Able Project.  Graham uses vermiculture, cardbaord and compost to grow worms which he feeds to fish. He needed warmth to grow the fish in the winter, and used willow grown on human sludge to heat the water. He's also providing 'ecosystem services', including reducing transport for human sludge and social service programmes. Fish waste is passed through water cress beds that extract the waste from the fish, and transform dirty water into clean, with the waste from the crop and fish poo going finally ending up in the worm composting with cardboard. Worms get fed to the fish, including sturgeon so that in a few years time they'll be harvesting Yorkshire Caviar.
  • Michael talks about a project that he developed where biodegradable waste is process using vertical biodigesters that produce heat and recyclate, creating a 'rainforest experience' that produced heat and energy to make money before customers even walked through the door
  • Janine Benyus commented how business is looking for solutions that are novel and also proven - opportunities to look at 3.8bn years of solution

There is likely to be a big thrust towards biomimicry, and note of caution about the loss of tens and thousands of species, many of which could potentially have provided us life-giving properties. One example is the gastric brooding frog, which nurtured its young in its stomach, able to do this because it could turn off its stomach acid. Scientists are keen to discover this to reduce illness caused by stomach acid, but they won't be finding out from this critter, as it's extinct.

Michael Pawylyn, Prof Julian Vincent and I will be working with a group of the UK's leadind biomimcry specialist at a three day conference in Cardiff in the spring of 2010 to explore structures, systems and processes, as applied to sustainability and rapid transformation. For more information and an outline brochure on programmes already available for business and government, please email us.


Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>