Biomimetic file 188: Dormant Processes

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 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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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 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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Biomimetic file 150: Sound Dampening

 Owl-Inspired sound-minimization technology

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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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Biomimetic file 146: built-in storage solar panels

Built-in storage solar panels

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Picture: Schematic of polymer donors (green) and fullerene acceptors (purple, tan) that pass electrons to external fullerenes that store the charge. UCLA Chemistry

Highlight:“Inspired by the mechanisms used by plants for holding onto the energy they capture from the sun, UCLA researchers have created predecessors of solar cells that could one day store the energy they produce until it is most needed. If panels can be made in this way at commercial prices and efficiencies, the technology could remove the need for additional storage systems under many circumstances.”

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 145: Solar fuel through enhanced photosynthesis

Solar fuel through enhanced photosynthesis

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Picture source: Professor David Hahn, University of Florida

Highlight: “Most people are aware of solar photovoltaics that generate electricity and solar panels that produce hot water but there is another thrust of solar research: turning sunlight into liquid fuels…The production of solar fuels is particularly attractive because it addresses both the conversion and storage problem endemic to sunlight…Solar energy drives photosynthesis to form plant matter through the reaction of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) and, over millions of years, the decay of plant matter creates the hydrocarbons we use to power our society…

…this particular technology developed involves a thermochemical approach that strips oxygen from steam and carbon dioxide gas using the sun’s heat. Then, the resulting gases are combined chemically in a separate process to make liquid fuels”

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 144: Robo-Roach!

 Robo-Roach!

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Picture source: Chen Li/University of California, Berkeley

Highlight: “Scientists have modeled a little robot on one of nature’s hardiest insects: the cockroach…it has been retrofitted with a streamlined shell, perfect for helping the bot scrabble through obstacles….The roach uses its natural ‘parkour skillz’, side-rolling to get around barriers it comes across. It is this rotating motion that the team from the University of California, Berkeley, wanted to replicate in their cockroach-inspired robot.”

Insight: As we are only starting the process of replicating natural traits through the use of technology, many aspects of modern robotics have already taken their inspiration from nature. In robotics walking patterns mimicking movements of various animals have significantly contributed to the field should it be through the study of small insects or larger animals such as kangaroos. Other developments of robotics have also made use of simple neuron transmission patterns studied in primitive insects (e.g. cockroaches). From an energy point of view, when studying nature we find that adaptations have often favored developments going towards solutions of lowest energy; in other words species move and behave according to optimal energy efficiency patterns. We should seek more energy efficiency solutions through the study of species…

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 143: Genetic Inspired Computer Softwares

Genetic Inspired Computer Softwares

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Picture source: ags andrew

Highlight: “Computer scientists have a history of borrowing ideas from nature, such as evolution. When it comes to optimising computer programs, a very interesting evolutionary-based approach has emerged over the past five or six years that could bring incalculable benefits to industry and eventually consumers… it is called genetic improvement…genetic improvement involves writing an automated “programmer” who manipulates the source code of a piece of software through trial and error with a view to making it work more efficiently.”

Insight: The genetic code that defines species characteristics is increasingly becoming a source of inspiration for IT developments. There is a lot to learn from DNA sequencing in terms of coming up with more effective computers hardware (e.g four base coding mechanism as opposed to current binomial systems) but also software designs by studying specific sequences of DNA and/or processes involving them such as self-healing or information transport mechanisms. Many complex processes in nature involving DNA (and also RNA) are now quite well understood thanks to advances in modern genetics; it is likely that future breakthroughs in computer science will come from nature inspired designs and processes..

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