Biomimetic file 160: Oceanic Bio-inspired Turbines

Why a different way of thinking is required to generate an innovation breakthrough

biwaveImage source: BioPower Systems. A breakthrough*: an important discovery or event that helps to improve a situation or provide an answer to a problem.

Highlight: “A wave power unit inspired by the way kelp strands sway with the ocean’s flow has been installed off Port Fairy, Australia. Wave power is still in the development stage with multiple, very different designs jostling to prove themselves as the prospect most deserving of mass production. The installation of Sydney-based company BioPower’s design, known as the bioWAVE, represents the arrival of a new, and radically different, contender…”

Insight: It often takes a radical different way of thinking to move forward. Societies improvement seem to follow a nonlinear pattern by which an innovative idea rises and eventually succeeds; it is then copied and slowly improved overtime until an innovative contender initiates a new cycle.

Renewable energies have been “stuck” for some time in the improvement phase and it is time for radical innovations to move ahead rapidly. Indeed, while typical solar and wind energies have improved significantly in efficiency over the last decade or so, the basic ideas used to capture the energy have made little progress. At the end of the day radical thinking is key to progress, it is just that some ideas succeed at gaining societal acceptation (which leads to business success) while others don’t…

While idea generation is a complex process that sometimes just comes from chance/inspiration, a framework can be set to help the process: basically it requires asking oneself some simple questions:

  • Is the conventional approach the only way to reach the desired outcomes? Can I think of anything else?
  • Is this new way (if any) feasible (technologically and financially)?
  • Is my idea innovative at all (has it been done before)?
  • How to start and progressively aim for that goal?

The great thing about biomimetics is that it is a good way to put the above framework into application, especially the idea generation part. Indeed, nature offers countless examples of processes which can inspire applications that benefit us and the best thing is that it is still virtually untapped which also means that nature inspired designs are almost always innovative (at least for now)…

Are you planning to release a product/service? If so, perhaps ask yourself the above questions and see if you want to go the mainstream way or perhaps be a bit more daring an try the innovative way. However, keep in mind that the innovative path is often associated with greater risks but if successful the returns will be greater and more satisfying…

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.bluestrike-group.com

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Biomimetic file 122: tree-like wind turbines

Why aesthetics can be as important as systems performance

tree-shaped-wind-turbinesphoto credit: NewWind. Aesthetics*  is a branch of philosophy that explores the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty.

Highlight: “One of the biggest criticisms against wind turbines is that they aren’t usually nice to look at, but that may be about to change thanks to the French company NewWind. Their new device, Tree Vent, is an array of vertical wind turbines that look a lot like a tree…”

Insight: The potential to harvest energy from the wind is proven, however the aesthetics of the systems are slowing the deployments of turbines especially in urban environments. Gaining inspiration from nature to design better integrated and more appealing systems is a good start. In this context, the other important element to consider is the potential to harvest wind energy in low wind and variable conditions, which are typically found in cities. While it doesn’t make sense to install large scale turbines in this type of setting, the implementation of many small scale turbines, for instance on rooftops, is actually a viable solution to feed in to local electrical grids. Friction has been a major step-back for low energy turbines; the input of technology such as the use of supra-conductors to levitate moving parts could allow to remove most friction.

In business, product aesthetics* can be very important when it comes to the sales success rates and surprisingly sometimes even more than the actual performance of the product. As a general rule if the product is somehow exposed to the public (some systems are not intended to be exposed, for instance industrial fans…) a strong design element should be incorporated in order to maximize the success sale rate of that product…

Lets illustrate the above point with the following case study: Two competing companies are in the business of heaters for home and industrial usage in cold climates. Company A and company B are about the same size and offer a very similar range of products. A trendy in-demand product has to do with boilers for home usage that provide hot water for showering but also the hot water system to heat the indoor space. Company A comes up with the most efficient product on the market in terms of energy efficiency that works on diesel. While being extremely efficient, the company does not pay much attention the the aesthetic of the product which ends up looking quite bulky, old fashion, with exposed metal panels covering the heating elements, and manual gauges (the needle type). On the other hand, company B comes up with a not as efficient product but they spend a lot more time and resources on the aesthetic of their product which ends up looking futuristic (curved edged, full digital displays, painted panels, glass elements…). Once the two products hit the market it becomes clear that company B quickly becomes the winner by taking the biggest share of the market. Disappointed that their more efficient product is not doing better sales, company A’s management finds out the hard way that they have failed to appeal to the consumers who in the end prefer slightly less efficient but a better looking system even though it is intended to be installed in their garage! After making this realization on the importance of consumer psychology even in their business line, company A decides to open a new design department which is costly and has a lot to catch up to meet the standards of their competitor; in other words the company has fallen behind because of this late realization…

Are you looking to release a new product that is exposed for people to see? If so, remember that it is important to aim for the highest performance but also to look at ways to work on the design so that it appeals to consumers aesthetic preferences as well no matter what the product is…

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.bluestrike-group.com

 

Biomimetic files 119 scientists make DNA wires that carry electric current

How diversifying the use of a process can lead to greater competitiveness

DNA_Computing (1)Photo credit: ynse, “DNA Rendering,” via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms

Highlight: “DNA, the molecule at the heart of life, is the most powerful and sophisticated information storage device in existence. So it’s no wonder that scientists are attempting to harness its capabilities in computing and electronics. Not only does DNA have the capacity to store vast amounts of data, but it also provides the opportunity to surpass current limitations on reducing the size of electronics…Researchers have found a way to use DNA strands as a replacement for electrical wires…”

Insight: since its discovery the applications of DNA for human benefits have been amazing, ranging from genome technology to structural design (e.g elements such as buildings staircases have been inspired from DNA double helix shape). Contrary to common belief the molecule still has much to offer in terms of knowledge and applications.

One of the particularly interesting aspects of DNA is its 4 base coding mechanisms as opposed to current computers binomial (2 base) coding. Research on the next generation of super computers using a 4 base coding is under way and if successful will lead to tremendous increase in computer power and storage capabilities. Going beyond this, it now seems that the structure of DNA itself is also prone to transmitting electrical currents more effectively and able to make electronic circuits a fraction of the size of what is currently available. This latest discovery is a significant step forward in technology as many of the current electronic devices are simply reaching physical capacity: we cannot make them any smaller than they already are.

While DNA is perhaps the most famous of all molecules there are many others that remain to be discovered and studied. However, as species become extinct so is this incredible database of molecules that goes with them along with potential technological breakthroughs.

The above point of taking something known for a specific usage (DNA as information support) and finding a completely different usage (DNA as an electricity conductor) is inspirational when it comes to business philosophy. Indeed, companies are often trapped with preset ideas that certain things or processes must only be used for specific applications. However, a different mindset of re-thinking the use of common applications can actually lead to innovations and significant savings…

Lets illustrate the above statement with the following case study: a diversified IT company is also in the growing business of smart phones. While already at the forefront of technology and design in the field, they have fix themselves a challenge for their new product release. The challenge consist of making the phone even more compact than its previous version while at the same time improving functionalities. The highly experienced engineering team gets to work and after much trials comes up with a great idea: in the previous version, the antenna element of the phone occupied a significant portion of the inside which if eliminated could create space for flattening the device further. The great innovation comes from the realization that the protective casing of the phone is actually a conductor and with the appropriate redesign could also serve as an antenna. Focused on this idea of combining both casing and the antenna, the team finds the right design and the new product becomes a hit worldwide. By having taken something no one else would have considered to have another use than what it has always been used for (a casing) this company (not difficult to guess which one) has converted it into an antenna and because of this innovative dual usage saved space and cost…

Are you struggling to find ways to innovate or improve your products or processes? If so, perhaps ask yourself if there are any parts that could be used for a complete different application than what the expectations are. Th element of surprise often drives compassion and interest…

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