Biomimetic file 174: Bacteriological Storage

Why planning ahead is important to avoid reaching the critical saturation point

content-1465829651-shutterstock-149312621Image: anyaivanova/Shutterstock.  Colonies of bacteria. The critical saturation point* is here defined by the point beyond which an activity/service/business can no longer be sustained because the very core on which it depends has reached its limit.

Highlight:“as revealed in a new paper in Science, colonies of bacteria have been converted into information-storing critters – or, to put it another way, biological hard drives…this new technique is able to encode roughly 100 bytes of data, a 73-fold increase in storage capacity…Rather than synthesizing DNA and cutting it into a living cell, the study wanted to know if it was possible to use nature’s own methods to write directly onto the genome of a bacterial cell…This way, if the bacterium replicated as it normally would, the information would be copied down through the generation. When this data is stored in a hard drive that could theoretically keep increasing in size over time, scientists could read it by examining its genome any time they wished, using any of the bacteria in the colony…”

Insight: The future of information storage will depend on biological systems and a good reason for that relies on the fact that we are simply reaching physical capacity of many materials currently in use for storage devices. This means that we can no longer (or at least not much longer) miniaturize and/or improve storage capacity due to the properties of the elements.

A recent study came up with the chocking discovery that we could in fact store the entire data generated by our civilization to date (and that is a lot of information!) in a single drop of fluid containing strands of DNA. If we put this point into the current context of the hundreds or thousands of major data centers around the world and the enormous amount of energy being used to power them, that offers a lot of hope not just in terms of storage capacity but also sustainable development.

There is only so much that conventional technology can achieve towards improving current systems and many of them are heading towards their limits. It appears evident that natural systems are an unavoidable part of the solutions going forward in what could be seen as a fifth revolution…

In business, favorable situations are rarely to last and determining the saturation point can be a difficult but a necessary exercise. Large scale examples would include aspects such as natural resources on which many businesses depend entirely (e.g. oil reserves, various metals…). While some companies would spend fortunes trying to assess this critical point in order to know until when the business can continue to operate without major restructuring, smaller issues for many companies are usually not dealt with the same level of concern resulting in simply not knowing where the critical saturation points stands…

Examples of processes and aspects which may be reaching a problematic saturation point:

  • Microprocessors and their processing power;
  • Fiber-optics and their ability to transport a certain amount of data;
  • Binomial computer codes;
  • Certain highways and their ability to take-in traffic effectively;
  • Batteries and their ability to handle heat;

Does your business deal with certain elements that are prone to reach their limits? If so, perhaps ensure to know (or a least try to better understand) where the critical saturation point stands and meanwhile prepare an alternative plan to take over once this point is about to be reached….

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

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Biomimetic file 144: Robo-Roach!

 Robo-Roach!

VelociRoACH vs cockroach_0

Picture source: Chen Li/University of California, Berkeley

Highlight: “Scientists have modeled a little robot on one of nature’s hardiest insects: the cockroach…it has been retrofitted with a streamlined shell, perfect for helping the bot scrabble through obstacles….The roach uses its natural ‘parkour skillz’, side-rolling to get around barriers it comes across. It is this rotating motion that the team from the University of California, Berkeley, wanted to replicate in their cockroach-inspired robot.”

Insight: As we are only starting the process of replicating natural traits through the use of technology, many aspects of modern robotics have already taken their inspiration from nature. In robotics walking patterns mimicking movements of various animals have significantly contributed to the field should it be through the study of small insects or larger animals such as kangaroos. Other developments of robotics have also made use of simple neuron transmission patterns studied in primitive insects (e.g. cockroaches). From an energy point of view, when studying nature we find that adaptations have often favored developments going towards solutions of lowest energy; in other words species move and behave according to optimal energy efficiency patterns. We should seek more energy efficiency solutions through the study of 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…

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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 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

biomimetic file 113: Gecko-Inspired Climbing Paddles for US military

Gecko-Inspired Climbing Paddles Allow A Man To Climb A Glass Wall

DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), a US military agency is actively looking into a range of biomimicry applications to take its technologies to the next level. It’s latest product is a wall climbing device that allows its user to climb glass surfaces without any conventional climbing gear.

“In order to produce this impressive technology, DARPA first had to understand how geckos achieve their incredible climbing abilities. Geckos can climb on numerous different surfaces, even slippery surfaces like glass, thanks to microscopic ridges on their toes called setae. These structures are then decorated with hundreds of branching tips called spatulae which reach a maximum diameter of 200 nanometers.”

darpa1

photo credit: DARPA

The military tends to be on the edge of research advancements for various reasons; first they have much bigger budgets than any public research agencies, secondly they have all the links with the government to access the resources  needed to advance the projects and most importantly they need to be on the edge of advancement for strategic advantages and efficiency.

Military technology in the US is always a step ahead of commercial applications which also means that a lot of the technological research breakthrough are developed by the military first. Trends also show that many of the military technologies end up on the market place after some years which gives hope for seeing some biomimicry applications reaching society as a result in the years to come.

It is a significant step forward for the military to start looking into biomimicry and a good indication of the realization that this is the field from which future technological breakthrough will come from.

more information at:

http://www.iflscience.com/technology/gecko-inspired-climbing-paddles-allow-man-climb-glass-wall

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 112: beetle inspired material draws water from arid air

Beetle inspired material draws water from arid air

“Inspired by a resident of one of the driest and most inhospitable places on our planet, a team of researchers based at Rice University has developed a device capable of capturing and collecting water from the atmosphere that could eventually be used to supply water to civilizations inhabiting arid areas.”

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photo credit: Rice University. The scaffold

Human activities will continue to cause drastic changes in the climate system throughout the century. It is a simple fact that while some areas will see significant increase in rainfall others will become drier and even desert like.

While some solutions are currently effective at producing fresh water (e.g. reverse osmosis) they are however unsustainable as they are energy intense and/or too expensive. Cheaper alternatives must be found to allow poorer and remote communities to access the rising demand for clean /fresh water.

Despite not always seen, the water is there omnipresent in the lower atmosphere even in the driest places on Earth. Having access to this water is all about finding effective ways of precipitating the water from its vapour to liquid phase.

Some species on the planet have been capturing atmospheric water from the ambient air for millions of years and we have a lot to learn from these processes and how they have managed do it effectively.

Learning from these natural case studies could well produce solutions which are both effective and economically viable. Resulting systems are likely to require large surface areas for collection; combined with built structures (e.g. residential estates) such atmospheric water collection systems could bring cities a step closer to sustainability.

more information at:

http://www.iflscience.com/technology/beetle-inspired-material-draws-water-arid-air

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 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