Biomimetic file 188: Dormant Genes

How seemingly useless initiatives can be dormant powerful assets

genes-759x415Picture source: University of Washington

Highlight:“Scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have used a world-first technique to change a single letter of DNA in human red blood cells, triggering them to produce more oxygen-carrying haemoglobin…The technique could lead to new treatments for sickle cell anaemia and other life-threatening blood disorders…it has been done through an innovative process that activates a naturally occurring gene that’s normally dormant after birth…”

Insight: A large part of the genetic code is apparently useless! At least this is the conclusion that some geneticists come up with considering the fact that most of the genome does not code for anything we have been able to identify yet (e.g. morphological traits, immune response…). The most serious hypothesis on the matter suggest that nothing is in fact useless but that a large part of our DNA is composed of so called dormant genes which would only come into action at a certain point in our lifetime, for emergencies or for very specific tasks that may never come to use…

This concept is rather interesting and inspiring when applied to the business world. Indeed, in war as in business, the best strategists have always been the ones who think out of the box and seemingly do things that don’t make any sense to most until it actually turns out to be a winning formula.

Similar oddities can also be seen in modern business mega-trends, such as some corporate sustainability practices, which raise many questions on whether they are useful at all to a business considering that they may not have clear positive returns. The point to make here is that if everything in a business has a clear purpose as intended by some, than perhaps this entity is not suited enough to anticipate rapid changes that could differ drastically from the norm. Indeed, besides key business objectives, there should always be dormant processes which may become a lifeline in times of need (this is especially true for large organizations).

Anticipation through dormant processes is in fact the best back-up plan a business can have. Considering regular business failures materialized by massive manpower cuts as an easy response, it is obvious that  many businesses do not have adequate dormant processes to cope with change…

Have you ever come across business practices which don’t seem to make any sense? If so beware of jumping to conclusions as in due time you may simply regret not to have done the same…

More information here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species or natural systems on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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Biomimetic file 183: Group Power

How Collective Interaction Can Lead to Greater Outcome

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The human brain is composed of billions of neuronal connections, yet in all this “mess” organized thoughts arise. Picture source: University of Rochester Medical Center

Highlight: “the collective behaviour and nest architecture of social insects can inspire innovative and effective solutions to human design challenges…Individual social insect workers exhibit relatively simple behaviours, but collectively, colonies can perform complex functions such as routing traffic, allocating labour and resources and building nests that provide physical and social services… Unlike most human operations, social insects accomplish such feats without a supervisor or centralized control; instead, colony-level patterns self-organize, or emerge, from local interactions that elicit positive and negative feedback responses…”

Insight: Breakthrough innovative ideas most often arise from individual minds (or at most a few individuals) rather than larger group thinking. Yet, group thinking is key to adjust decisions that are to be applied within the group and/or beyond; it is an integral part of the delivery process. The paradox between restricted and larger group thinking can be challenging in modern change management strategies.

The common pyramidal top-down hierarchies of modern administrations is outdated and slowly showing signs of fading. Most corporations still restrict strategic decisions within a close circle  without any feedback from other layers of management. While strategic thinking will always be led by a few individuals within a group, managing the risks of the outcomes is a different story and group interactions can really help to clarify and mature a concept; the larger the group the more confident the outcome will be…

In nature feedback mechanisms are omnipresent (e.g. the climate system, heart bits., insect wing flapping…)  and contribute towards systems stability. Without dynamic feedback (negative and/or positive), systems would rapidly go out of control and collapse.

Are you planning a drastic  change? Than perhaps consider applying a robust collective feedback process before moving ahead. Social interactions (with some moderation) is key to future leadership and risk minimization…

More information here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species or natural systems on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

 

Biomimetic file 157: Communications

World’s first cyber plant

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Image: Linköping University

Highlight: “A team of scientists at Linköping University in Sweden have developed the first electrically augmented plant, creating both analog and digital circuits inside a living rose…This technology could allow scientists to regulate growth and chemical processes in plants, as well as harness photosynthesis to create new solar cells… The Swedish group added a polymer inside the rose’s natural system of vessels and its leaves, and they were able to show it’s possible to create electrical components that resemble wires, transistors, and even display elements…”

Insight: Our communications have been changing drastically especially in modern time with the introduction of mass and cheap interactions made possible through the internet, allowing a much greater element of reach and cognition.

However, we have been relatively slow at taping into other types of potential communication elements that surround us, not just in terms of human communications but also technological ones which would allow transmission of information or signals.

Examples would include the transmission of energy through micro-waves; chemical communications such as the ones used by certain species of insects (Pheromones); light communication using a range of different wavelengths  (we have yet to see the potential of Photonics). There are numerous ways to transmit information which remain virtually untapped and unexplored.

Species on Earth use a range of unconventional methods to communicate with one another. Leap breakthrough transformations in society could occur by using new ways of communications and species offer solutions…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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Biomimetic file 156: Engineered Bio-materials

Coat made from biotech spider silk

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image source: science daily

Highlight: “Spider silk is one of nature’s stretchiest and longest– making it ideal for active sportswear. However, harvesting spider silk on an industrial scale is not very efficient, mainly due to spiders’ competitive disposition to eat their rivals… Scientist have found a way to generate The spider silk protein, fibroin, with the help of microbes… Spiber isolated the gene responsible for the production of fibroin in spiders and introduced into a bio-engineered bacteria, meaning they churned it out as they grew. The protein is then collected and spun into artificial silk.”

Insight: There are a range of materials which are still best “manufactured”through biological means rather than engineering. Examples would include soft organ tissues, a range of membranes or in this instance spider webs. The point here is that instead of trying to re-engineer existing structures found in nature, it appears a better approach to make use of species or ecosystem services to undertake part of the making process. The outcome is likely to me much cheaper and better…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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Biomimetic file 155: Radiation Sensing

New instruments developed to look inside nuclear reactors inspired from cats eyes 

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Image source: Nuclear reactor at Reed College by Don McCullough, via Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0 

Highlight: “Researchers from Lancaster University in England have developed a camera that is able to see the radiation emitted by nuclear reactors. The team, led by Jonathan Beaumont, has drawn inspiration from the eyes of cats and believes this technology will boost safety and efficiency in nuclear power plants, as well as provide necessary assistance in case of nuclear disaster emergencies.. ”

Insight: Our human visual senses are very restricted compared with the rest of the animal kingdom as we only see a narrow band of the light wavelengths. Many species however see through a much broader spectrum and some in a totally different wavelength such as UV or Infrared. By studying species physiological adaptions with regards to the capture of specific wavelengths, new instruments could be inspired for a range of light analysis applications…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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www.biodiversity.sg

Biomimetic file 154: Pollution removal

Mercury removal substance developed from Orange peels!

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Picture: Sulphur-limonene polysulphide. Justin Chalker, Author provided 

Highlight: “Mercury pollution is one of the most insidious problems in our environment. Researchers from Flinders University have unveiled a new material that can scrub mercury from the environment.. The material – sulphur-limonene polysulphide – binds to mercury and changes colour…Limonene is a substance that can be extrated from orange peels…”

Insight: An interesting development making use of waste products from current industrial activities. Perhaps the best aspect of this research is also the fact that the substance changes color when bonded with mercury.

While surrounded by invisible pollutants we have become  tolerant to this idea despite the significant health risks resulting from prolonged exposures.  Perhaps if invisible pollutants were made visible to the human eye, drastic changes will start to surface and public opinion would force authorities to take actions.

The same Principe applies to the climate change issue: if CO2 emissions (and other gases) were made visible in real time through technology such as instant light radiation analysis, the source of the problem would become evident to everyone; not that there isn’t enough evidence to date, but people seem to be more reactive when relying on their own senses…

This principle is well apparent at present with the forest fires in Indonesia, not many people care about the issue until it becomes visible and starts to affect them directly…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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Biomimetic file 153: fire retardants

Non-Toxic flame retardants developed from compounds found in Mussels

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Highlight: “Researchers at the University of Texas in Austin have developed a new flame-retardant substance based on a natural chemical used by mussels. Flame retardants are a coating added to manufactured materials that can stop or delay the spread of fire. They are used in the textile, computer, and construction industries, but most traditional flame retardants are highly toxic. This study, published in Chemistry of Materials, is an important breakthrough in creating non-toxic flame retardant materials…”

Insight: A common dilemma in products development is to come up with functional efficient products but at the same time not to compromise safety for human usage. It can often be a challenge as toxicity is a common outcome of improved efficiency especially when dealing with chemicals (e.g. the Superglue). Nature often provides solutions because efficiency within organisms can only be within certain limits that prevents the species from destroying themselves. Examples would include self physical protections against the toxins (e.g. Puffer-fish contain very toxic substances but these are confined within organs layered with special coatings to neutralize the toxin) or self immune compounds (e.g. venomous snakes)…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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Biomimetic file 152: new materials

New materials: reduced weight/improved strength

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Picture source: Boeing

Highlight: “Aerospace giant Boeing has developed the lightest metal structure ever, which is also one of the lightest materials known to science, called Microlattice.The entire structure is 99.99% air and is comparable to the hollow honeycomb architecture of bone. The structure is composed of a network of super thin, hollow struts. The struts are around 100 micrometers in diameter and have walls just 100 nanometers thick. It’s this design that makes Microlattice 10 times lighter than Styrofoam. However, despite it being insanely light, it is also extremely strong.”

Insight: While our senses mislead us to think that we live in a three dimensional space, we are actually surrounded by multiple dimensions. Indeed, we only see the surface of things when in fact new dimensions start to become apparent with a closer look. For instance a simple fabric may seem like a plain colored surface but zooming in with the naked eye will start to reveal the mesh structure, zooming in further will expose inter locked fibers used to make the fabric and going down even further using technology will reveal hidden dimensions up to the molecular level and beyond.

The simple point here is that we overlook the dimensions of space including within organisms where the very fabric of living tissues and molecular structures are a great deal of inspiration in areas such as design or engineering. While some species have been studied for their behaviors, taxonomy, morphology or anatomy, very little work has looked closer into the tissue structures at different scales. Special traits in species (e.g unusual surface strength) should serve as a hint that perhaps elements of their structures could provide applied solutions…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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Biomimetic file 151: Energy Storage

Mushroom inspired batteries can significantly increase their lifetime

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Image source: ALAMY

Highlight: “Existing lithium-ion batteries use graphite for the anode, which requires a high standard of purification, accounting for a significant portion of the cost. Graphite anodes also degrade relatively quickly, interfering with long-term storage capacity. The ideal replacement would contain plenty of salt to act as an electrolyte, be porous enough to leave plenty of space to hold lithium and could be grown naturally…A team at the University of Riverside have met success with the skins of Agaricus bisporus…the humble mushroom has been roped into service in one of the great technological quests of our time, to extend the lifespan of batteries…”

Insight: On one hand species can provide solutions to gain inspiration in order to improve current systems. On the other, there are now several case studies that demonstrate that it is possible to directly combine living systems with engineered processes. The concept implies more reliance on ecosystem services in order to achieve better outcomes.

A simple successful example already well established is water purification processes relying heavily on bacterial activity combined with mechanical elements.  A not so successful example is an artificial kidney used in dialysis treatment which is very expensive and far from being as efficient as a natural kidney organ.

This business model provides new challenges such as maintaining the durability and stability of the living part of such systems but also new opportunities to achieve things that are simply not possible or unsustainable given our current technologies. The simple point here is why always rely on technology when complex tasks could be carried out more effectively and at a cheaper cost through available ecosystem services already optimized for specific tasks?

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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www.biodiversity.sg

Biomimetic file 150: Sound Dampening

 Owl-Inspired sound-minimization technology

Abstract_3D_And_CG_soundwaves_Sound_wave_sound_waves_electricity_star_black_sun_universe_shining_hole_blue_tiger_white__129194Picture source: creative commons

Highlight: “As they swoop down on mice at night, the prey have no idea what’s coming. This is because owls are the experts of silent flight. By studying how the birds manage this stealthy feat, scientists have developed a sound-dampening technology that could be used to coat wind turbines, airplane wings, and even the fans of computers, to make them quieter.”

Insight: Sound is an omnipresent pollution in modern society. While we tend to forget about it, people living in cities especially are constantly exposed to sounds of various intensity and long exposures have been linked to several health impacts.

A lot of these sounds come from rotating parts and more precisely blades. It is surprising that the practice of design replication is common in the industrial business world even though it may not be the best. Most blades follow the same basic design without much customization when in fact it is obvious that greater energy gains and side benefits can be achieved through adaptive innovation.

As a case study the aeronautic industry has achieved good results in recent years in sound reduction and fuel consumption through measures which includes a simple redesign of their engines blades. Sometimes the greatest improvements come from the least expected systems parts…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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www.biodiversity.sg