Biomimetic file 201: Blossom

How to manage nonlinear productivity

Cherry BlossomsImage: creative commons. Blossom*: In botany, blossoms are the flowers of stone fruit trees (genus Prunus) and of some other plants with a similar appearance that flower profusely for a period of time in spring.

Highlight:“The giant Arum (Amorphoohallus titanum) reaches 3m in height and has the largest blossom in the plant kingdom. The giant pleated “petal” (spathe) weighs almost 4kg: the largest light-weight construction among plants or even in organisms…researchers have used the fabric as inspirations for new generation construction materials…”

Insight: In temperate climates spring is synonymous with a significant increase in wildlife activity; after the long months of winter when life is in a dormant state everything suddenly speeds-up tremendously to make the most of a narrow window preparing for the summer months; productivity is at its utmost stage.

It is not an unknown fact that human productivity is nonlinear, on a daily basis we are typically only productive for a few hours at most. Companies that claim that long working hours are synonymous with productivity are in the wrong. As a matter of fact some countries like Sweden get away with a ridiculously low day working hours while sustaining a productive economy (and a happy lifestyle). This is supported by psychological tests that demonstrate that our attention span cannot be sustained at its optimum level and that there will inevitably be peaks and downs of productivity.

Learning to know ones limits and productive states can be a great asset in being more productive as  individuals and within teams. That can be done by managing energy levels, knowing ones physiology or simply experimenting with daily routines that make the most of potential productivity stages which can vary greatly between individuals.

Some typical aspects that can influence productivity in people may include:

  • A specific time of the day (or night);
  • Specific food sources/nutrition;
  • Lifestyle (remaining in good physical shape and keeping a happy state of mind);
  • Sleep management;
  • Time management (work and personal).

Do you know your productivity profile? If not, think about it and ask yourself what and when makes you more productive. This simple exercise can lead to overall significant performance and time management improvement …

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

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

Biomimetic file 191: the art of attraction

How familiarity and likeness are key attributes to business marketing strategies

02-01sm-640x426Image source: Scienceline. Attraction*: the action or power of evoking interest in or liking for someone or something

Highlight: “Carnivorous plants, among them tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.), have always fascinated people due to their remarkable ability to attract* and feed on animals…these plants are now used as model systems for various biomimetic applications…a current cooperative project between the Zoological Institute at the Kiel University and the Institute of Chemistry of New Materials at the University of Osnabrueck aims at the development of hierarchical anti-adhesive materials by mimicking the slippery zone in N. alata pitchers…”

Insight: An interesting aspect of carnivorous plants is their remarkable ability to attract animal prays despite their obvious disadvantage of being mostly static as opposed to their highly mobile prays. It appears that one key strategy besides having developed various ingenious physiological traps is the art to attract prays in the first place. For instance certain species make use of sugary solutions to attract such substance loving insects…

These species adaptations offer an inspiration for business marketing strategies. Indeed, in order to attract customers a proven successful strategy is to develop products that have an obvious similarity (or clearly assimilates) to something which people are already known to like and be familiar with. As a matter of fact the reference to specific species or wildlife traits is omnipresent in products marketing and branding campaigns such as various luxury car brands built on fast and powerful animals…

Are you planning to launch a new product? If so, perhaps ensuring that it reflects obvious similarities to something that people straight away recognize and like could give a significant hedge over the competition. It appears to be basic customer psychology that in order to attract one must first inspire confidence and likeness; products that are “too innovative” and drive a sense of confusion rarely succeed…

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

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

 

Biomimetic file 190: Polarized vision

How perception can drastically influence business decisions

634bc15a53c38c3d7807e548390c3b44Image source:  Electron microscopic view of the eye of a fly; pinterest.com

Highlight: “Many organisms have photosensitive sensors which enable them to respond to various light phenomenons…while most insects are sensitive to a particular occurrence of polarization, most primates are not…a team of researchers have gained inspiration from studying these natural sensors to develop a range of simple instruments that make possible to reveal what was previously hidden…”

Insight: Species in the animal kingdom perceive the world very differently than we do. Indeed, almost all the spectrum of light radiations is represented and species have developed very specialized eyes or other reception organs in order to perceive the world in the most favorable way possible (mostly for hunting prays and avoidance).

As a matter of fact our vision of the world is rather restricted since we only have access to a small part of the spectrum in the visible light range. Gaining access to other parts of the spectrum such as the UV, Infrared or Microwaves can reveal very different and useful aspects of the world that surround us; think of the tremendous progresses which have been made in fields such as astronomy or medicine…

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Image: Spectrum of light. The visible light range to which we humans have access is only a very small portion of it…

An applied business point to make here is that most people only see the outside of corporations, what they want you to see. But digging further and looking at them with a “different eye” starts to reveal the true colors of enterprises. Aspects such as their operations, their impacts on the world and society, the way they deal with their finances, all these and more tell a lot about a company and most importantly its fitness in the current and future business landscape.

Do you intend to invest in a business or perhaps just buy a stock? If so perhaps remember to look at it with various pairs of eyes…

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

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

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 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 111: New Superhydrophobic Surface Inspired By The Eye Of A Fly

New Superhydrophobic Surface Inspired By The Eye Of A Fly

Hydrophobic surfaces is driving a lot of attention right now from various teams around the world. The aim is to develop surfaces that are effectively kept dried under different exposure conditions. The stakes are high, indeed economically viable technologies that would allow do do this have a range of big business applications. One of them being anti drag solutions for the shipping industry, a patent that could be worth billions.

“Superhydrophobic surfaces have a diverse range of applications in industry. They can be used in clothing and footwear such as boots and jackets to protect them and make them waterproof. They can be applied to underwater vessels such as submarines to reduce drag, or boats to prevent fouling and protect against the growth of marine organisms. They could also be used in electronics to prevent corrosion. The list goes on- they’re handy materials.”

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photo credit: Sun et al., Small

More information at: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/new-superhydrophobic-surface-inspired-eye-fly

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…

http://www.biodiversity.sg

Biomimetic file 110: New waterproof surfaces engineered inspired by natural elements

New waterproof surfaces engineered inspired by natural elements from sources such as duck feathers, butterfly wings or lotus leaves

“Engineers from Brigham Young University are developing extremely waterproof surfaces that they believe could dramatically improve the efficiency of both power plants and solar energy systems. These surfaces, called superhydrophobic surfaces, are extremely difficult to wet since they cause water to aggregate and form beads that sit on the surface.”

The potential for effective engineered superhydrophobic surfaces is enormous both from a technology and economic point of view. Indeed, various currently operating systems are not functioning at their optimal efficiency or are expensive to maintain. A good example would be deposits of micro organisms on ships surfaces which requires more energy to power them and costs the shipping industry billions of dollars in maintenance and operating costs every year; superhydrophobic coatings on ships surfaces could significantly reduce the buildup of algae and other organisms.  Another application would be in the condensers of energy power-plants to greatly improve the efficiency of the process..

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Image credit: BYU. Microscopic posts used to create the superhydrophobic surfaces.

More details at: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/superhydrophobic-material-developed-makes-water-bounce-ball

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…

biomimetic file 109: lamp made of bioluminescent algae

Our streets could  be lit by bio-energy from bioluminescent organism rather than electrical current generated by human processes. Many organisms on the planet have developed the ability to emit light through chemical reactions. These processes are usually to attract members of the same species or to pray on other species. Nevertheless such free light source should be exploited to greater extents..

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Photo credit: Pierre Calleja’s algal lamp at TEDxLausanneChange

More details at:
http://www.iflscience.com/technology/streetlamps-go-green

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…