By Anila Sood501704116Email [email protected]
We live on a planet surrounded by competence and genius living around us, and biomimetic is an excellent example of this. Biomimicry is the discipline that takes advice, design advice from these geniuses. Biomimetics is an interdisciplinary field in which principles from engineering, chemistry, and biology are applied to the synthesis of materials, that have functions that mimic biological processes. Biomaterials are any natural or synthetic material that interacts with any part of a biological system. Biomimetic designs could be used in regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, and drug delivery. Some biomimetic processes have been in use for years. An example is the artificial synthesis of certain vitamins and antibiotics.
Biomimetic materials are the one that was developed by drawing inspiration from nature. This may be useful in the design of composite materials. Natural structures and resources have long inspired human beings towards innovative creations. Example: Wind turbines modeled after humpback whales. Many of our modern aerodynamic designs rely on rather basic principles. To obtain optimal lift and minimal drag, sleek edges and clean lines are key. However, throughout the animal kingdom, many species, capable of exceptional lift. The Humpback whale, for example, uses bumpy, tubercle fins for propulsion — which seems rather counterintuitive.
A Harvard led research team determined that these nodules, enable the whales to choose a steeper “angle of attack.” The angle of attack is the angle between the flow of water and the face of the flipper. With Humpback whales, this attack angle can be up to 40 percent steeper than a smooth flipper. Due to these small ridges, sectional stalls occur at different points along the fin. This makes a full-on stall much easier to avoid.
Learnings from the Class
I learned from this class some things I have never pondered upon, or never thought about. I never used to question the science and the inspiration behind a lot of things. The biomimics scientists are the nature’s apprentices. Biomimicry serves as a bridge between biology and engineering.
This course taught to look beyond the obvious and look for answers from the nature to find out the solution for the problem we have. For example, how to make better ventilation systems without consuming a ton of energy, The answer lies in the way certain African termites build their houses, how architecturally sound they are. These are the findings that brought me closer to the geniuses of nature.
Also, learning about hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties of different compounds was insightful. As managers, we are striving towards a future which is sustainable, and organisms around us are living sustainable lives without harming the planet. So, this course taught me to be curious about nature, to look for inspiration from nature, to think about how is it done by the organisms around us.
Seaweed inspired hydropower
The oceans are a source of power that have never really been fully utilized. By using the science of biomimicry we can harness the power of ocean and can move towards a sustainable future. It’s been estimated that ocean waves near coastlines produce more than two terawatts of power globally. Nearly half of the world’s people live near the ocean, so it makes sense to harness that wave power and convert it to electricity. But the problem lies behind the cost of power production. No technology was developed which can efficiently and economically harness power of the great oceans.
But, biomimetics provided us with the answer, and scientists developed wave harnessing machine called the bioWave, an inverted pendulum that sways back and forth with the waves, mimicking the motion of seaweed: An unlikely inspiration came from a kind of seaweed known as Bull Kelp. This seaweed is firmly anchored to the sea floor, and thanks to its buoyant bulbs, it sways with the waves and currents of the ocean. BioWAVE has harnessed this design in their revolutionary concept to harness hydraulic energy to convert to electricity. Thanks to the Bull Kelp, scientists have discovered that the strong anchor-like roots work effectively without being drilled deep into the ground. This keeps costs low as well as environmental damage low.
The 400-tonne, 23-metre wave-energy generator is inspired by strands of seaweed. “We designed it with a highly efficient pivoting structure, reminiscent of the natural swaying motion that a plant would undergo in the waves,” explains Timothy Finnigan, CEO of Australian energy technology company BioPower Systems, which created the bioWAVE generator. This approach not only helps the bioWAVE harvest wave energy more efficiently, it also keeps it safe in rough and harsh conditions.
We all know how mighty sea forces can be and there are tremendous forces are at play there and it is hard to survive in such enviornment. So BioPower Systems who wanted to harness the power from ocean swells had to find a way to make their units robust enough for these operating conditions and they turned to the Mother Nature to find solutions and they found it.
Bull kelp is very good at withstanding strong water movements. Here are a few interesting strategies the bull kelp uses and that inspired the bioWAVE(TM)’s design:
The strong root-like system called holdfast. The holdfasts are not called roots because they don’t go deep in the ground but rather stay close to the surface creating many anchor points that redistribute vertical and lateral forces.
Buoyancy: the kelp has gas-filled bladders that float and keep the kelp upright. From the bladders emerge blades that need to be close to the surface to absorb sunlight for photosynthesis.
Kelp moves with the currents rather than resisting them. That way it can withstand very strong currents.Strengths
· It is cleaner and more efficient
· Can withstand very strong currents
· The flexibility of the kelp reproduced by using a swivel and pivot system allows the structure to rotate in the direction of the current. It also can lay down close to the seafloor when the current gets too strong, minimising the forces seen by the structure and the risk of damaging and ‘uprooting’ it.
· It is economically and environmentally sustainable
The way spring is orchestrated by nature, no such feat has been achieved by the humans yet. The answer to all our problems lies in nature if looked closely. Biomimetics has provided many solutions to our problems we just have to look for them. The solution to the world’s energy crises can be solved by biomimetics. If the Biowave generator is widely used then the dependence on the renewable sources of energy could be reduced and we will take one step further towards the sustainable future.