Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin and Biomimicry

What is so special about February 12th?

It is the birthday of Charles Darwin, but more importantly a day of given respect as international recognition for science and humanity. The evolutionary biologist was way ahead of his time as he neglected his medical studies at Edinburgh University in order to study marine invertebrates. Our society is still learning about evolution as we apply his theories of Natural Selection, Art of Creation and Adaptation of Species.

Fast forward to today, his theories are helping modern day biologists explore bigger, better and more efficient designs through the integration of biomimicry. This practice has gained momentum thanks to Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature and founder of TBI. Biomimicry is known for observing nature and applying its natural abilities to improve products or processes. See examples.

Dirt Free, No Chemicals:
The wings of many large-winged insects such as butterflies and many plant surfaces remain dirt-free without chemical detergents or expending energy, simply by how their complex surface topography interacts with the physics of water molecules. Lotusan® exterior coating uses these same micro-structural principles to regain its cleanliness automatically after the mere rinse of a rain shower. (Source Ask Nature – Biomimicry Institue)

The Thorny Devil can gather all the water it needs directly from rain, standing water, or from soil moisture, against gravity without using energy or a pumping device. Water is gathered to this desert lizard’s mouth by capillary action through a circulatory system on the surface of its skin made of semi-enclosed channels running between scales. Channel surfaces are heavily convoluted, greatly increasing the effective surface area to which water can hydrogen-bond and hence capillary action force. Passive collection and distribution systems of naturally distilled water could help provide clean water supplies to the 1 billion people estimated to lack this vital resource, reduce the energy consumption required in collecting and transporting water by pump action (e.g., to the tops of buildings), and provide a variety of other inexpensive technological solutions such as managing heat through evaporative cooling systems, protecting structures from fire through on-demand water barriers. (Source Ask Nature – Biomimicry Institue)

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