Biomimetic file 184: Surface Tension

How to overcome obstacles with minimal risks

1robot_closeupImage source: Seoul National University. Surface tension*: The cohesive forces among liquid molecules are responsible for this phenomenon. In the bulk of the liquid, each molecule is pulled equally in every direction by neighboring liquid molecules, resulting in a net force of zero.

Highlight: “a group of engineers, led by a researcher at the Seoul National University, have just created a machine that can jump on water…the engineers studied the mechanics behind the Water Strider, an insect that can easily jump upwards from a pond. It’s an ability that’s poorly understood in insects in general…The trick, according to an analysis of a high-speed film of Water Striders, is to push down on the water with the maximum velocity that the surface tension can take. The further the insect’s leg pushes down, the greater the surface tension that builds under the leg and the better the upward jump. But if the leg pushes too far, the meniscus—the curved water surface—can’t take it and gives way, allowing the leg to sink…it’s necessary to find the optimal balance: push down hard enough to make maximum use of the surface tension, but not so hard that you rupture it…”

Insight: The water tension analogy is an inspiring business philosophy: The faster an obstacle tries to break the water surface the more difficult it is to go through it; as a matter of fact hitting water at high speeds is similar to trying to go through a concrete wall and a guarantied catastrophic outcome.

Is there something blocking you from moving ahead? If so, perhaps consider a slower well-thought pass-through rather than trying to rush. A slower path is often associated with significantly lesser risks than fast aggressive actions. However, rushing through is always an option and sometimes succeeds (not without risks);

The point to retain here is that if one goes too fast, beyond a certain threshold point, than the failure rate increases sharply…

breakeven-diagramDiagram: Economic models follow similar trends: if you try to go too fast in trying to reach the financial break-even point by pushing aspects such as initial cost benchmark, the sales are likely to collapse. It is all about finding the right balance between time and cost…

The adequate planning of the completion speed of any project (time management) is crucially important in its success rate. It can be really tricky to find the right balance that will keep a project on the track of a successful completion. The reality is that in life some situations are subject to risk taking while avoidance is the norm. Which path would you choose?

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/

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Biomimetic file 179: auxiliary power

How positive momentum can be captured to improve business effectiveness

maxresdefaultImage source: creative commons. Auxiliary*: providing supplementary or additional help and support

Highlight: “By combining the mouth muscle from a sea slug with 3D-printed components, researchers have managed to build a biohybrid robot that is able to move with remarkable accuracy and do unusual tasks …The mixture of living tissue and man-made parts is a sector moving into its own…The muscle from the sea slug is controlled by an external electric field, which should mean that in the future scores of the roboslugs could be released to carry out tasks such as locating toxic leaks or even searching the ocean floor for black box data recorders from crashed planes, outlasting conventional robots that would run out of battery before the task is complete…beyond the cellular structure being used in the hybrid robot, the particular motion of sea slugs is of interest…”

Insight: When talking about motion it is most often referring to primary thrust but there is another type being left behind called “auxiliary*”. The principle is simple and intends to make use of the primary thrust in order to generate further thrust that make the overall process even more efficient.

A good example would be types of engines used on certain planes, such as an old DC10, where the third engine mounted on the tail is only capturing the energy generated from the two other wing primary engines to generate additional power and gain efficiency.

Swimming sea slugs have a very different way of using auxiliary motion whereby an initial thrust generated by muscle power spreads like a wave throughout its body and is amplified by specialized muscles until it exits, the water pushed in the process  generates the thrust.

There are many situations where part of the energy generated is wasted when it could be amplified with such auxiliary principle and nature offers many good examples of optimization.

Drawing from the auxiliary power analogy, a simple point can be made here: when a favorable situation presents itself, it can be leveraged to get an even greater positive outcome (in other words exploit productive situations to their full potentials as it may take a while to have another shot). By learning to identify hidden opportunities in the surrendering environment, one can maximize the outcomes beyond the expectations; it is an art that can be mastered with surprising results…

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 171: Connected Spider-Robots!

How network communication effectiveness is key to projects success

download (1)Image source: Siemens Robotics Lab/Princeton, New Jersey/USA. In information technology, networking* is the construction, design, and use of a network, including the physical (cabling, hub, bridge, switch, router, and so forth), the selection and use of telecommunication protocol and computer software for using and managing the network, and the establishment of operation policies.

Highlight: “researchers at the Princeton, N.J., laboratory of Siemens’ Corporate Technology division have developed a collection of 3D-printing robots resembling large spiders (SISpis). The cybernetic arthropods are designed to operate both independently and cooperatively, working together to fabricate custom objects and assemblies…the machines are engineered for the research, development, and testing of algorithms for fabrication, perception, navigation, and collaboration…The most intriguing aspect of the SiSpis machines is the way they work together. As one example, the printing spiders do not carry any material due to their limited load-bearing capacity. Rather, each arthropod is paired with a “sidekick” robot that carries up to two spools of feedstock…”

Insight: Collaboration is key in any type of innovative work. Robotics have evolved greatly in the last decade or so concurrently with networks and notably the internet as the international platform for inter-connectivity. The merging of the two fields: robotics + networks will continue to see a new breed of devices come out that will slowly change our way of life. The wireless age is definitely here to stay and interconnections between devices is set to increase tremendously.

In business networking is of primary importance particularly when working on large projects with input expertise from around the world. The age of teams being physically present in the same space/location simultaneously to work on a project, despite sometimes still necessary, is coming to an end. Indeed new technologies now allow to work efficiently remotely. The challenge is no longer getting people in physical proximity but to ensure the strength and relevancy of the communication networking tools. As there are now many different platforms available to share information, choosing the most appropriate for a specific project will have fundamental implications on the success rate of that project. Despite common beliefs that every large project always reaches completion because of the significant costs involved, the failure rate of projects is actually high (around 40%)…

Some common examples of the variety of networking tools include:

  • Video-conferencing systems (some are much more reliable than others: working with a system that constantly breaks, has poor sound/video quality is irritating and will affect performance…);
  • Instant messaging applications;
  • File sharing systems (often cloud based platforms);
  • Specialized databases tools;
  • Management tools (it is important that someone keeps track of who is doing what and manages communications between members: a network project manager with the help of a robust system…)

Are you working on a project that requires bringing people remotely together from around the world? If so, perhaps spend some time deciding on the appropriate communication tool(s) to use for this specific project as making the wrong initial choices could escalate to catastrophic failure…

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…

bluestrike logo

www.bluestrike-group.com

Biomimetic file 170: Sharktail like tidal turbine

Sharktail like tidalturbine

biostream_01

Picture source: Biopower systems

Highlight: “The bioSTREAMTM employs a patented oscillating hydrofoil system to extract energy from moving water. For sites that have a peak current speed of 2.5m/s or greater, bioSTREAMTMoffers an environmentally safe and commercially viable source of electricity…An onboard computer continually adjusts the angle of the hydrofoil (fin) relative to the oncoming flow such that the tail and fin system develops a swimming motion. The energy transferred by this side-to-side motion is converted to electricity by O-DriveTM modules installed on the bioSTREAMTM…The ability to streamline and weathervane during periods of excessive flow allow for low-cost construction and competitive generation cost per MWh. A 250kW bioSTREAMTM demonstration project is in development…”

Insight: While conventional spinning blades are the most commonly spread type of tidal generation, it is clearly not suited for every case. There is a lot of potential out there for low cost/low energy systems that mounted in series can provide safe and regular sources of energy for, let say, coastal towns. With the rapid rise of energy storage systems as well as computer processing power (these systems need to be highly dynamic) this type of production is no longer an obsolete addition to other types of traditional energy generation.

It is well established that species movement are efficient, they need to be in order to survive..Therefore it only makes sense that more should be done to study and replicate these movements for efficient and effective energy generation purposes…

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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www.biodiversity.sg

 

Biomimetic file 144: Robo-Roach!

 Robo-Roach!

VelociRoACH vs cockroach_0

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 139: Refrigerant free vaccines inspired from sea urchins

How to protect critical systems from unavoidable risks

Image source: Clip Art image. A critical system is any system whose ‘failure’ could threaten human life, the system’s environment or the existence of the organisation which operates the system. “Failure” in this context does NOT mean failure to conform to a specification but means any potentially threatening system behaviour

Highlight: ” CSIRO researchers have come up with a protective seashell-inspired capsule that could cost-effectively and reliably preserve the key active ingredients in vaccines…It mimics a process called biomineralisation where sea urchins grow a hard, protective shell to safeguard their fragile tissue inside. Applying this concept, has led to a molecular-scale shell that grows around and protects fragile biomolecules such as proteins and enzymes…”

Insight: Energy needs (and its cost) often make the difference between a commercially viable initiative and one that is not. In the case of the pharmaceutical industry, a major part of the cost is often due to energy and transport needs in order to keep the products under safe condition rather than the production cost itself. In nature many species anatomy actually provide excellent insulation against the elements in terms of thermal isolation but also other types such as filtering membranes against certain contaminants. We should look in species more for answers when it comes to insulation for diverse applications ranging from medicines to the construction industry…

The above insulation capsule example can be applied to business strategy: there are parts of businesses which are crucial to operations and simply cannot afford to be damaged (physical or conceptually). While a robust risk management strategy can be developed by understanding the risks and coming up with measures to reduce them significantly, there is no such thing as zero risks. Therefore, for systems of critical importance, there needs to be additional protection beyond risk management. An effective way is the protective shell approach which implies surrounding the system with a layer that in the event of a failure will take the first hit and is designed to be damaged in such a way as to protect the inner more critical system. In other words such systems need to be designed to fail within safety limits. In some systems this could be a real protective shell (e.g. a simple helmet protecting a cyclist head, a car crash proof design to protect the driver) or a more complex protection for instance a firewall which would protect a more sensitive computer coding from hacking, electromagnetic breach or others…

Lets illustrate the above point with the following case study: A powerful government has developed a military system that can launch ground-to-air missiles from any location in the field. This system is powered by an auxiliary power unit which makes all the systems including  launch, guidance and safety operational; it is without saying that there is no room for error and power failure is not an option.  While detailed safety procedures and complex military style hierarchy are in place to prevent accidental launch of the missiles, there is always the very small probability that something else may happen (e.g. a bird crash lands on the power system). In the event of a hit, or other types of system breach a range of safe proof backups are in place:

  • 3 backup generators all running on different fuel types and in different locations of the unit;
  • In addition to the strong metal outer shell, inner generators are protected by other shells and at least one of them by an iron Kevlar coating, one by a full fire proof coating and another one by a high shock absorbing and waterproof design.
  • In case of a failure of any of the systems an inbuilt programme initiates a safe auto-shutdown procedure which ensures no electrical leak can transmit to the missiles and locks the system.
  • As well as many other in built backups

Are you managing critical systems that cannot afford failure? If so, perhaps consider the protective shell approach and remember that no matter how good a risk management strategy is there is always the possibility of an unforeseen failure that requires a backup plan…

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…

bluestrike logo

www.bluestrike-group.com

Biomimetic file 138: Seashell-Inspired Material leading A New Wave Of Safety Gear In Sport

Seashell-Inspired Material leading A New Wave Of Safety Gear In Sport

Picture source: Andy Alderson

Highlight: “Sheffield Hallam University has been developing improved materials for impact protection in sports. The materials have the fascinating and unusual auxetic property (i.e they expend instead of contracting under shock) that can be used in helmets, pads, guards, gloves, mats and barriers…the inspiration for the current work on auxetic materials for improved impact protection equipment in sports comes from the ultimate natural armour protection system: the humble seashell.”

Insight: Some species in the animal kingdom have highly adapted exoskeletons that not only support their structure but also act as a protective armour against the elements and predators. The combination of light weight and strength are two aspects commonly found in species skeleton structures. The properties in certain species structures (down to the molecular level) such as shrimp shells or oysters  have already led to practical innovations in sectors such as aerospace or construction where the strength/weight ratio of materials is a rising challenge. It is likely that the inspirations for future structures and materials will be found within 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…

www.biodiversity.sg

Biomimetic file 114: Muscle Powered Biorobots

Why it is important to merge expertise

maxresdefault (1)photo credit: Janet Sinn-Hanlon, Design Group@VetMed.

Highlight: “Researchers from the University of Illinois have produced a new generation of muscle-powered biological robots, or “bio-bots,” that can be stimulated to walk using electrical impulses. These robots not only represent a significant advancement in the field of soft biorobotics, but they may also eventually have uses in a variety of applications including drug screening and delivery systems…”

Insight: While copying natural systems is a field only at its earliest stage, sometimes utilizing biological systems within engineered structures can also lead to interesting outcomes. Mimicking natural processes or systems is often underestimated in terms of its complexity. Even simple systems that are omnipresent in our surrounding environment (e.g. photosynthesis) are actually extremely difficult to replicate given our current technologies. While there are some success stories utilizing engineering practices, such replications are often under-performing the natural systems.

Another approach to bio-mimicry is a hybrid concept through which systems judged too complex to replicate are actually combined with artificial engineered processes. This synergy is starting to show successful applications. For instance researchers after years of trials are now able to isolate specific synaptic electrical signals emitted by the human brain to send orders to artificial prostheses.  This technology makes artificial body parts control such as a hand or a leg possible with direct input from the brain.

In our current state of technological advancements we are simply unable to replicate many relatively simple natural processes which still outsmart our abilities. Until such capabilities are met perhaps a faster way of advancement in the field of bio-mimicry would be the hybrid approach. We tend to pride ourselves through our technological breakthroughs as an advanced society but if we start to compare our capabilities with what nature provides all around in our environment we then come to the simple realization that we are actually not so advanced at all..

The above case study of combining two fields (robotics) with a living system (a muscle) is inspirational when it comes to business philosophy. Indeed, some of the greatest breakthroughs in technologies rarely happen in one particular field but at the merger of several fields. This is why multidisciplinary teams are so important in terms of providing environments that fuel innovation…

Lets illustrate the above point with the following case study: A US 5 billion dollars mega project in the UAE has launched an international appeal for the best design of a future landmark building to be located in an exclusive location on top of an artificial island. The judges are seeking “something out of this world” as stated on the project scope. Many leading architectural firms are keen to take on the challenge and the project sees over 50 entries. While all are traditional architectural firms mostly employing architects, one of them has been increasingly noticed for its unique approach of combining architecture with other fields. In order to achieve this, the company proud itself of having the most diverse workforce in the industry comprising not only architects but also, engineers, biologists, designers, artists and many more. In the end, of all the finalist this particular firm has the most innovative idea with a building concept that seems to defy the laws of gravity, design and has managed to integrate never seen systems. This unique structure is a result of the expertise of the diverse team which have included touches from various disciplines in all aspects of the project. By merging their respective expertise to achieve a single goal they were able to come up with a fresh new concept.

Are you seeking to achieve an innovative breakthrough? If so, perhaps consider diversifying your workforce to gain different opinions and perspective which when put together can result in greater outcome…

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…

bluestrike logo

www.bluestrike-group.com