April 23, 2021

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Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.29.39 AMSix technological breakthroughs inspired by nature

By Cat DiStasio From engadget

By Inhabitat

Mollusk shells have led to a high-impact glass design.

Biomimicry is an incredible field that seeks to unlock nature’s deepest, darkest secrets and then use them to solve human problems. Many of the scientific breakthroughs in biomimicry have far-reaching applications ranging from new medical technologies, to methods of space exploration, advancements in renewable energy and better, cleaner and stronger building materials. The approach investigates nature’s designs and seeks to replicate its processes to improve people’s lives in the most efficient way possible. Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, including long-extinct dinosaurs, sticky-footed geckos, deep sea creatures and even the structure of the tiniest green leaf. Read on to learn just a few examples of how scientists are mimicking the amazing abilities of plants and animals.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.27.00 AMDino-inspired wind turbine blades
It might be bizarre to think that long-extinct animals could hold any inspiration for the future of renewable energy. Yet, the dinosaurs that essentially turned into the fossil fuels we’re trying to branch away from are the basis for a more efficient wind turbine blade, developed by scientists at Siemens. The aerodynamic DinoTails were created to mimic the back plates of the Stegosaurus, with a serrated edge that reduces turbulence. The prehistoric prototype released in 2012 increased efficiency by 1.5 percent, which is actually a substantial boost by clean energy standards

q-80From sunflowers to sun power
MIT scientists are among the many working on clean energy technology, including more efficient solar power plants. By rearranging the mirrored heliostats of a concentrated solar plant (CSP) into the pattern of a proud sunflower reaching toward the sun, researchers found the array took up 20 percent less space. The more compact CSP increases clean energy output by taking advantage of the sunflower’s “golden angle” of 137 degrees, which has been respected since ancient Grecian times.

3-mantis-shrimp-armorA tiny shrimp with a big tactical advantage
Many deep-sea creatures have incredible abilities, adapted over centuries to endure the extreme conditions of their natural habitat. The rainbow-hued mantis shrimp measures just four inches and has a fist-like appendage that can withstand 50,000 high-velocity strikes against all manner of prey — the equivalent of 50,000 bullet impacts — in its lifetime. This led researchers to wonder whether the shrimp’s secrets could lead to lighter, stronger body armor and vehicle frames.

As it turns out, the shrimp’s tiny orange club is composed of three specialized regions that form a composite framework tougher than many engineered ceramics. Because of the material’s super light weight relative to its durability, the potential applications are endless.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.28.24 AMA functional man-made leaf
This artificial leaf can do just what a real plant does: convert water and light into usable oxygen. Julian Melchiorri created the leaf from silk fibers imbued with natural chloroplast, which houses the chlorophyll that absorbs the sun’s energy and makes photosynthesis possible. Melchiorri created a more durable man-made version of nature’s oxygen generators, and the device could be used for air purification here on Earth and potentially as a source of oxygen in space.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.29.03 AMGecko pads allow humans to climb walls
There is a time in every child’s life when they become envious, if just for a moment, of a spider or lizard’s ability to scale a wall. The seemingly effortless motion is amazing mainly because humans do not possess such talents. That is, until a team of Stanford University researchers developed a pair of sticky pads inspired by the feet of one of nature’s best climbers: the gecko.

Each handheld pad contains 24 adhesive tiles adorned with minuscule sawtooth-shaped polymer structures, enabling the pads to stick to a vertical glass face and support the weight of an average-sized human. Testing the wall-scaling tools was a lot of fun for the team, but their invention could have serious applications. Shortly after the gecko pads were developed, NASA began investigating the possibility of attaching them to spacecraft to help clean up orbital space debris.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.29.39 AMMollusk shell structure leads to stronger glass
Broken glass is a huge annoyance, not to mention dangerous, so attempts at creating stronger versions of the ubiquitous material are welcome. Researchers at Montreal’s McGill University made a breakthrough in 2014 with a new material they claim is 200 times stronger than traditional glass. Its durability comes from mimicking the structure of mollusk shells, which are notoriously damage resistant.

To replicate the features of a mollusk shell, scientists engraved microscopic fissures into glass and then filled them with a polymer. The result is a material that, instead of shattering on impact, would sustain only minor defects.

For more on this story go to: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/09/six-technological-breakthroughs-inspired-by-nature/

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