Biomimetic file 173: Bionic leaf 2.0

Why multidisciplinary teams is a key success factor leading to innovation

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Image source: Harvard University. Photosynthesis*: is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms’ activities (energy transformation). This chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars, which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water. The photosynthesis equation is simple yet one of  the most important in nature: 

6CO2 + 6H2O –> (light energy) C6H12O6 + 6CO2

Highlight: ” Researchers at Harvard University have co-created a system that uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels…this is a true A-to-Z system that has gone well over the efficiency of photosynthesis* in nature… The system can now convert solar energy to biomass with 10 percent efficiency, far above the 1 percent seen in the fastest-growing plants…While the study shows the system can be used to generate usable fuels, its potential doesn’t end there…it provides a platform that can make any downstream carbon-based molecule…so this has the potential to be incredibly versatile.”

Insight: The most innovative breakthroughs often do not arise from a simple field but at the intersection of various disciplines and expertise which highlights the importance of multidisciplinary team work. This specific case is a good example whereby a bionic leaf was made possible combining the expertise of leading experts from very different fields namely: energy, microbiology and engineering.

Multidisciplinary teams are important in any situation where strategic decisions need to be made (e.g. boards). Some key elements of benefits would include:

  • Different perspectives to a problematic;
  • Idea generations: often people from a specific field are so narrowed within their own school of thoughts that they don’t see other paths;
  • Mutual feedback on feasibility (e.g. a problem may be solved through engineering but would not work from an ethical point of view);
  • Interconnections and linkage to various fields: often a better alternative comes out by merging ideas from different fields which would not be possible without multidisciplinary teams.

Corporations which solely hire people from a single specific field (e.g. some architecture/engineering/law firms…) without expending their teams with people from very different backgrounds often loose the competitiveness battle and there are many real case studies that showcase this very fact. The most successful companies often have a good mix of talents within their workforce…

The key point here is that if one wants to truly innovate it is perhaps a wise choice to broaden the scope and expertise of the team which tackles the problem…

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 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