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 design 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

Biomimetic file 141: Evaporation Powered Engines

How small outcomes can be exploited to become large outputs

TOP HUMIDITYImage source: Joe Turner Lin. Evaporation* is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs from the surface of a liquid into a gaseous phase that is not saturated with the evaporating substance. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which is characterized by bubbles of saturated vapor forming in the liquid phase.

Highlight: “researchers have developed the first ever engines driven by evaporation…they created what they’re calling “hygroscopy driven artificial muscles,” or HYDRAs, using bacterial spores that shrink and swell as the humidity changes. Within the spores, water is confined in tiny cavities, and humidity triggers pressure changes. Using HYDRAs, the team created two kinds of devices—a floating, piston-driven engine and a rotary engine—that can help generate electricity from evaporation.”

Insight: Evaporation* is a powerful force omnipresent in our world and it has remained virtually untapped! While evaporation occurs everywhere on Earth it is strongest in hot locations which would be favored deployment sites. Despite the fast rise of certain renewables, especially solar Photo-voltaic, there is a need for an energy mix and this new solution could be a good addition as part of a global de-carbonification process. The element of scale is important in future energy needs; while energy production from evaporation may seem unproductive compared to modern gas fired Powerplants, the potential relies on two fronts with low cost and large scale deployment which in term could provide significant amounts of decentralized energy. The technology behind this latest innovation is a good case study of biomimicry whereby engineering and biological principals are combined to come up with a functioning mechanism. The key to future innovations will require a multidisciplinary approach using natural along with engineered systems..

The above points can be applied to business strategy: while most models are based on a small but high output principle (e.g. local market size but high profit margin), we increasingly live in a flat world (an analogy for the fact that the planet and its systems are becoming more and more interconnected) which makes a new type of business model based on small output but large outcomes feasible…

Lets illustrate the above point with the following tale taking place in a near future, roughly 10 years from now: a small town in the middle of the United States runs 100% on an expensive but efficient coal fired Powerplant on a 20 ha land in the inner suburbs which generates 450MW of power.  Mike, the mayor of the town prouds himself of having created 300 jobs in his plant and another 600 jobs in the nearby coal mine. On the other end 3 miles away another similar sized town with an ecological conscious mayor, John, is trying a different model to take over from their own aging coal fired plant and has decided to power his town 100% on solar photovoltaic energy (The two which are actually friends have  secretly made a bet on which model will come out most successful). The location  happens to be prone to solar energy generation due to its high sun exposure, flat grounds and dry air. John’s town quickly moves-on to re-develop nearly 10 square miles of surrounding desert land with solar panels purchased in bulk at a very favorable price. While the output per panel is relatively small, in the end, the system combined (9 million panels) generates more than 500 MW, enough to power 160,000 homes. The project has created over 4000 jobs, its operational cost is comparatively low and the air quality is now much better not to mention the media sensation interested in this small town initiative. A deal made with a new generation battery manufacturer allows the town to effectively store the energy and operate at night. While 5 years ago the solar farm would have cost 4 times the price of the coal fired plant, with the price of panels having dropped significantly the entire project was about the same price (800m) to build (this is why this projection takes place in a near not so far away future as in today’s market it would cost more to build the solar farm!). Thereafter, every time John and Mike meet up for a beer at the middle road pub, John reminds Mike of the story and asks him “so when are you following my model?” to which he replies “it’s already decided John, you won,  solar is the new coal and I am now convinced!” (that is just me being optimistic)…

The answer to the title of this post is clear: in order to turn small outputs into large outcomes the parameter to play on is the element of scale. Increasingly low cost large scale systems will take over small scale high cost installations…

Are you planning a new development? If so, perhaps explore the two above models, crash in the numbers and come up with your own conclusions, based on the situation, on which model is the most feasible and economical in the long run…

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 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…

bluestrike logo

www.bluestrike-group.com

 

Biomimetic file 120: harvesting energy from body artery pressure!

How to capture inner-corporate power

iPSBwCdPhoto credit: Naomi Kizhner. As blood is pumped out of the left ventricle into the aorta and distributing arteries, pressure is generated.  The mean arterial pressure (MAP) is determined by the cardiac output (CO), systemic vascular resistance (SVR), and central venous pressure (CVP) according to the following relationship, which is based upon the relationship between flow, pressure and resistance: Eq. 1: MAP = (CO × SVR) + CVP

highlight: “Naomi Kizhner, an industrial designer and graduate student from Hadassah College in Jerusalem, has designed jewelry that theoretically extracts energy from the wearers own body. The ‘speculative’ jewelry is embedded into the person’s veins and uses their blood to turn small wheels inside the device… ”

Insight: I wouldn’t actually categorize this as a good example of biomimicry as it is more a combination of technology with biological systems, however the idea is very interesting and could be developed to utilize bio-mimicry principles for instance by studying artery patterns of selected species in order to maximize the efficiency.

The idea to produce energy using our own body is a fantastic one; Indeed our body generates non-negligible amounts of energy should it be through normal motion (e.g. walking or simple regular body movements) or internal organ systems. This energy is simply wasted when in fact it could be re-captured and utilized to power small devices like smart phones or even bigger machines. Sufficient energy could be produced using efficient and well designed micro-turbines connected to our arteries. Perhaps adapting the technology to make it smaller and hidden below the skin as an implant like a heart control battery could be the start of a revolution of human body powered systems?

The above point of exploiting inner body power is inspirational as a business philosophy. We often hear that employees are a corporations most valuable asset but few company’s actually seem to understand that. Indeed, employees are not only an asset to individually deliver the tasks they were employed to do but as a team, the workforce within corporation is a powerful source of innovation in itself should the direction know how to get the best out of it.

Lets illustrate the above point with the following case study: a Tech company is faced with an important problem, they are trying to reach out to a younger market for one of their latest products which translates a piece of text into an emotion (e.g. “the writer of this text is happy”) based on the analysis of punctuation, text structures and other indicators. While well received by the business sector, so far the initiative has failed to reach the youngster considered a big market. After failing to gain much insight from outsourcing strategies, the management decides to turn back to their own company and capture ideas from their many talents. The problem is thrown to the workforce as a challenge inciting employees to act as small teams (no ore than 5 people) and to provide practical solutions on how to reach the market. The response is overwhelming and over 15 teams are created. After three months the company starts judging the entries through a first round of selection based on documents submissions followed by a second round of presentations for the finalists. One of the team comes up with a great App idea that brings the system to the hands of youngsters using an appropriate display that can also be used with instant messaging applications. The team is well rewarded and the company takes the opportunity to remind the workforce of their value to the company….

Are you faced with a problem you don’t feel has reached a satisfactory solution through outsourcing? If so, perhaps consider tapping onto your own workforce as well, even if the scope does not fall within the normal operational tasks, you may be surprised of the outcome and it is a great way to connect and motivate…

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 files 119 scientists make DNA wires that carry electric current

Why 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 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

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