Design by Nature

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Main Question or Discussion Point

‘The genius of man may make various inventions, encompassing with various instruments one and the same end; but it will never discover a more beautiful, a more economical, or a more direct one than nature’s, since in her inventions nothing is wanting and nothing is superfluous’ - Leonardo da Vinci (translated by Richter, 1952).

The goal of Biomimetics (also referred to as “bionics”) is to make use of exactly this fact. Nature has a 2 billion year evolutionary head start on us and where better to turn for inspiration?

Current biomimetics research depends entirely on inter-disciplinary cooperation and I am of the understanding that, due to the diversity of the field and the exceptionally large range of design possibilities, things will probably remain like this for the foreseeable future. Since I’m an undergraduate BSc Physics student, I sincerely hope that this is indeed the case and it’s partly the reason for starting this thread.

My aim here is to have a thread where ideas, concepts and “discoveries” can be shared and discussed but mostly, I am hoping to get input from people who are involved in biomimetic research/design (if there are any here) as well as opinions from physicists, engineers, biologists and chemists about the relevancy of their fields (which will include all the sub-disciplines) and where applications of their particular expertise will be most useful in biomimetic design and engineering.

Last but not least, the heading for this thread was taken from a http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2008/04/biomimetics/tom-mueller-text that I'd recommend as an easy introduction to this absolutely fascinating discipline.

phyz
 
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Article dated June 14 2006 from "Scientific American".

Researchers have created a novel nanomaterial that combines the strength of spider silk with the rigidity of silica. The product could help pave the way for the fabrication of replacement bones.

Regrowing bone requires a scaffold that is stiff, long-lasting and safe. With that in mind, David Kaplan of Tufts University and his colleagues decided to marry the protein that constitutes the drag lines of golden silk orb weaver spiders with the protein that helps diatoms--a subset of plankton--make silica, a glasslike compound. The spider-silk protein alone "just doesn't have the stiffness you want, that's why you need the glass," Kaplan says.

After splicing the two proteins together, the team then processed the resulting chimeric protein into both films and fibers and tested the result. As hoped, the films and fibers created dense silica coatings for themselves. By using electric current or varying conditions, the researchers could also control the size and shape of the resulting materials. "We were able to control and bring it down to two microns [wide]," adds team member Cheryl Wong Po Foo of Tufts. "We're going into the nanoscale range."

Initial tests of the nanomaterial's medical potential is being conducted in vitro, but the researchers hope to try it out in animals in the near future, using it to help guide the growth of a hip replacement, for example. The possibilities do not end there, however. The chimeric protein forms this material at low temperatures and without chemicals other than water. Current industrial practices for making silica require high heat and ionic extremes. "You can think of high performance materials made via an aqueous, room temperature, green chemistry," Kaplan notes. The research is being published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
And for those of you who can speak the language of biomedical science, the results were published here in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Pretty nifty hey? :smile:
 
  • #3
Mapes
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You may enjoy Vogel's Cat's Paws and Catapults where these ideas are discussed. He explores the differences between human technology and Nature's technology; one example is that we tend to design for stiffness (e.g., nobody wants to walk across floors that bow noticeably even if there is no change they will fail), while Nature's devices seem optimized for strength.
 
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Thanks Mapes. Will try and get hold of it.
 
  • #5
berkeman
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Cool idea for a thread, phyzmatix. I look forward to reading some of the posts. Thanks for the pointers to the articles as well.
 
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Cool idea for a thread, phyzmatix. I look forward to reading some of the posts. Thanks for the pointers to the articles as well.
Thank you very much, kind sir! :biggrin:

Will post more articles as I find them and I'm still hoping to rope in some people who are "in the know" to comment over here. As a first year undergraduate, I don't even understand much of the science behind it yet, nevermind being able to discuss it...
 
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In construction, there's a growing interest in nature inspired design. The structural system of Beijing's 'Water Cube' ( to be used on Olympics for swimming events)was inspired by the formation of soap bubble. Also in Beijing, the 'Bird's Nest' was inspired by, well, a bird's nest. There's also a footbridge in Singapore whose geometry was inspired by the DNA's double helix.
 
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In construction, there's a growing interest in nature inspired design. The structural system of Beijing's 'Water Cube' ( to be used on Olympics for swimming events)was inspired by the formation of soap bubble. Also in Beijing, the 'Bird's Nest' was inspired by, well, a bird's nest. There's also a footbridge in Singapore whose geometry was inspired by the DNA's double helix.
You wouldn't happen to have any links available? To articles or pics, whichever's easiest please.
 
  • #9
berkeman
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You wouldn't happen to have any links available? To articles or pics, whichever's easiest please.
Just cut the words from parts of his post and paste them into google. I did that for the DNA bridge, and got this hit:

http://www.arup.com/_assets/_download/90EE5559-19BB-316E-405B2F8ED0F87022.pdf [Broken]

Pretty slow server, but once it downloads, you get some pretty pictures.
 
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You wouldn't happen to have any links available? To articles or pics, whichever's easiest please.
unfortunately, there's some restriction in my posting privileges so I can't give you the links. For the the mean time google for the Beijing National Aquatic Center or famously known as 'Water Cube' and Beijing national Stadium otherwise known as "Bird's Nest".
 
  • #11
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unfortunately, there's some restriction in my posting privileges so I can't give you the links. For the the mean time google for the Beijing National Aquatic Center or famously known as 'Water Cube' and Beijing national Stadium otherwise known as "Bird's Nest".
Of course sorry, I should've noticed. Will google as you said.

Just cut the words from parts of his post and paste them into google. I did that for the DNA bridge, and got this hit:

http://www.arup.com/_assets/_downloa...8ED0F87022.pdf [Broken]

Pretty slow server, but once it downloads, you get some pretty pictures.
You're right, very, very good photo's there.
 
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  • #12
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Google produced and after clicking on the first two links that looked promising, this is what I got:

http://www.arup.com/eastasia/newsitem.cfm?pageid=11112 [Broken]

http://www.arup.com/eastasia/project.cfm?pageid=1250 [Broken]

An interesting note on the "Water Cube", as faux mentions, it's inspired by the formation of soap bubbles which is:

...the most efficient sub-division of three-dimensional space.
and

This geometry provides the strength needed to resist Chinese earthquakes
 
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