Biomimetic file 147: self-healing materials

How processes feedback can help businesses improve

shutterstock_113146501Picture: Kamenetskiy Konstantin/Shutterstock. Feedback*: the modification or control of a process or system by its results or effects

Highlight: “Drawing inspiration from how the body heals wounds…the team of researchers at the University of Bristol has been working with aerospace engineers to develop a system which is able to self-patch over small, almost undetectable cracks in the wings of planes while in operation…”

Insight: The power to self-heal is associated with living organisms. Without self-healing benefits species including ourselves would not live very long; a simple scratch would become life threatening. Applying the concept to the structural world could significantly alter the longevity of materials and systems.

Often damages in infrastructures occur as a result of progressive fatigue and worsens over time to gain scale (e.g. an opening fissure) which can lead to a catastrophic outcome. The key is to tackle the damage while it is still at a micro scale and developments in nanotechnologies can now make this possible.

The potential that self-healing materials could offer is tremendous, from applications such as safety critical systems (the airplane wing here presented is a good example of that) to difficult and dangerous to access areas like the core of a  nuclear reactor or deep sub-sea infrastructures. In addition to improving safety, such self -healing technology could save significant amounts of money in reducing maintenance or repair costs…

These self healing principals can be applied to business strategy: Often manufacturing processes require ongoing maintenance, however sometimes certain developing failures are more visible than others. The point here is that if one does not see or know that a system is about to fail than no corrective actions can be taken. A good strategy is to evaluate where the risks are in a given system and to come- up with an adequate strategy that may involve a combination of manual checks and automation.

Lets illustrate the above point with the following case study: A large chemical company has a manufacturing facility in Vietnam. The processes involved in the manufacturing require extensive cooling systems. The water used for the cooling system is pumped from a nearby lake which does not cause any problems with authorities since the water is purified through the process and actually comes out  cleaner than when it came in helping to clean up the river. However, the water is rich in minerals, bacteria and other elements which make the conductivity quite high. Without any adjustments, this water quality profile affects a range of parameters such as the acidity of the water. Overtime if left un-managed the pipes, valves, joints and other elements of the cooling system corrode an need to be changed frequently which is very costly and delays operations. While regular verification by the technicians help to manually adjust and clean up developing rust on visible elements, the management also decides to install a range of sensors which detect critical parameters such as acidity, conductivity and adjust to remain within safe limits through the automatic injection of chemicals. This self healing process saves the company over 30 million US dollars a year.

Are you faced with a system that requires difficult to observe critical parameters? If so, perhaps consider the above approach of combining manual checks with automated systems working on feedback* principles, this may save you time and money…

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 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