2 August 2012

By Sareh

17 May 2012

Qatar cacti building

The Minister of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture (MMAA) in Qatar is getting a brand new office building that takes the form of a towering cactus. Qatar is fairly barren, covered by sand, and receives and average annual rainfall of 8.13 centimeters. Since Qatar has the highest GDP in the world, they can afford to construct spectacular buildings that can be very efficient in the hot desert environment.
The designers from Bangkok-based Aesthetics Architects GO Group decided to model the MMAA’s new office upon the cactus, taking inspiration from the way these plants deal with the scorching desert climate. The modern office and adjacent botanical dome are going to biomimic the cacti and the way that they successfully survive in hot, dry environments.
MMAA’s new building is designed in order to be very energy efficient and utilizes sun shades on its windows. Depending on the intensity of the sun during the day, the sun shades can open or close to keep out the heat when it is too much. This is similar to how a cactus chooses to perform transpiration at night rather during the day in order to retain water – another great example of biomimicry.
The botanic dome at the base of the tower will house a botanical garden. Hopefully it will include innovative solutions for waste-water management re-envision the process as an eco-conscious endeavor, conserving water and reducing overall treatment costs with minimal sludge disposal, water purchases, sewer surcharges, and chemical use.
By re-organizing the natural resources it is possible to transform water from dirty to clean. In one of the most basic solutions, waste-water pulses through a minimum of three different ecological systems that process and filter it in different ways. Each ecological system is isolated from the others so that it can treat waste-water based on its own unique needs, after which the water cycles on to the next community.
The technology would use helpful bacteria, fungi, plants, snails, clams and fish that thrive by breaking down and digesting pollutants. The selection and further cultivation of diverse communities is a solution in order for all compounds to be treated. The magic lies in understanding how the organisms interact and their combination. By combining them just right, that they can soak up the nutrients they love, enabling them to grow while they provide cleaned water. The botanical dome can also be used for climate control and air control, as well as for cultivation of a sustainable food source for the employed people.

Pitcher plant as inspiration for efficient liquid repelling coating

Inspired by pitcher plant, a group of applied scientists at Harvard University managed to create a material that repels just about any type of liquid, including blood and oil, and does so even while it is exposed to high pressure or freezing temperatures. Since it is carnivorous by nature, the ability to have a virtually frictionless surface inside its cupped leaf is crucial for its ability to capture insects or small frogs.

We already wrote several articles about hydrophobic (water repellent) surfaces which biomimic the lotus leaves, however, this approach doesn’t perform well with organic or complex liquids. It also loses its ability once it is scratched or exposed to extreme conditions.
Instead using air-filled nanostructures to repel water, the pitcher plant locks in a layer of water and uses it as a slick coating. Inspired by this ability, Harvard scientists designed a method to create slippery surfaces by infusing a nano/microstructured porous material with a lubricating fluid. The method is used to create Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) which are capable to repel a wide variety of liquids and solids.

The researchers have demonstrated that the near frictionless effect persists under extreme conditions such as high pressure (as much as 675 atmospheres), humidity, and low temperatures. They conducted tests outside after a snowstorm where SLIPS withstood the freezing temperatures and even repelled ice.

SLIPS can be made optically transparent which makes them suitable for self-cleaning surfaces in optical applications. The bio-inspired liquid repellence technology could find applications in biomedical fluid handling, fuel transport, and anti-fouling technologies. Other potential applications include surfaces that resist bacteria, ice-resistant materials or even new anti-sticking surfaces that repel fingerprints or graffiti.

Mimosa inspires new adaptive structures

The Mimosa is among the plant varieties that exhibit specialized “nastic motions” – movements noticeable in real time with the naked eye. Its capability to fold its leaves when touched is inspiring a new class of adaptive structures designed to twist, bend, stiffen and even heal themselves. The flow of water in plant’s cells which enables the plant to fill or empty some of its cells with water. These microscopic shifts allow the plants to move and change shape on a larger scale.
Researchers at University of Michigan and Penn State University are replicating the mechanisms with artificial cells. Currently, their artificial cells are palm-size and larger, but they’re trying to minify them by using microstructures and nanofibers to construct them. They’re also exploring how to replicate the mechanisms by which plants heal themselves.

Sea shells inspired a new material made of chalk and polystyrene

The sea shells are strong and resistant to fracturing, because the calcium carbonate is combined with proteins which bind the crystals together, like bricks in a wall, to make the material stronger and sometimes tougher. A team of materials scientists and chemists from The University of Manchester and The University of Leeds have taken inspiration from sea shells found on the beach to create a composite material from dissimilar ‘ingredients’.
They have successfully reinforced calcium carbonate, or chalk, with polystyrene particles that are used to make drinks cups. The researchers developed an effective method of combining calcite crystals with polystyrene particles which makes the material more ductile compared to its original brittle form.

Fish lateral line for future robots and submarines

The lateral line is a hydrodynamic imaging system found in fish and aquatic amphibians which enables them to accomplish a variety of underwater activities such as localization of moving prey or predators, detection of stationary objects, schooling without colliding and social communication. It consists of numerous hair cell sensors called neuromasts which are distributed all over the fish body, with many of them situated on the surface of the skin and others in sub-epidermal canals.
Developed by Douglas Jones, from the University of Illinois, along with Chang Liu from Northwestern University, the artificial lateral line (ALL) consists of a 3-D system of biomimetic neuromasts (BNs) wrapped around a cylinder. A man-made lateral-line system can be indispensable for underwater vehicles and robots, enabling new methods of exploration, interaction and communication.

Spider hairs biomimicry for hydrophobic surfaces

Spiders use these hairs to stay dry or avoid drowning. By mimicking spiders, engineering researchers from the University of Florida (UF) have created what they call a “nearly perfect hydrophobic interface”. By using plastic to reproduce the shape and patterns of the minute hairs that grow on the bodies of spiders, the researchers have created one of the most water-repelling surfaces yet.
Wolfgang Sigmund, a professor of materials science and engineering at the UF, began working on the project about five years ago after picking up on the work of a colleague. Close-up photographs of water droplets on dime-sized plastic squares show that the droplets maintain their spherical shape, whether standing still or moving. Sigmund said his surface is the first to shuttle droplets with no tail. The surface works equally well with hot or cold water, and Sigmund claims a variation of the surface also repels oil – a first for the industry.

Solar Panels That Follow The Sun

Solar panels that track the sun currently involve the use of motors and electronic control systems to move them and convert the power to energy.  But a team of engineering students at MIT, inspired by heliotropic plants that move in the direction of the sun all day (like a sunflower), have developed a new method of motivation for the photovoltaic cells to move.  Their invention won first place in MIT's Making and Designing Materials Engineering Contest (MADMEC).
Solar cells that track the sun can be 38 percent more efficient in generating power than fixed solar cells, but the systems required are very expensive.  Instead of using an electronic tracking system, Forrest Liau, Vyom Sharma, and George Whitfield, who made up the "Heliotrope" team, decided to use the difference in temperature between shaded and sunny areas to change the properties of the material supporting solor photovoltaic cells. 
After experimenting with different materials and configurations, the Heliotrope team came up with a system whereby solar panels would be placed on top of a curved arch made of a pair of metals, such as aluminum and steel.  The concept was demonstrated by shining a spotlight on one side of a bridge containing a solar panel.  The heat from the light causes the bridge to arch, tilting the panel towards the light.

500 showers heated from composting pile

Brian Kerkvliet from Inspiration Farm talks about his little compost pile that provided 500 hot showers. Compost heat can, indeed, be captured to heat water.

// Marcela


SAVE WATER BRICK made from leaves and discarded plastic absorbs water
Providing a sensible solution to the green waste and the plastic trash, the Korean designers Jin-young Yoon and Jeongwoong Kwon have come up with their highly absorptive SAVE WATER BRICK. Their design process involves the subjection of waste through a recycling process.

The concept involves pulverization of fallen leaves and plastic that further undergoes a blending process. At any cost, it is comparatively more rational than burning the refuse as the production of these bricks doesn’t generate emissions. Not only do these bricks absorb water but also allow it pass through the waterways engraved on them. This water can be stored either underground or in tanks for future use.



In our next system mapping, we could think about connecting program to re-use energy, heat or water product by one program for an other one.

This principle is also available ina smaller scale.

The folowing example are not exactly from biomimicry principle but there are some example of ECO-DESIGN.

Saving water and material IN YOUR BATHROOM
This toilet is designed to use the water that was used for washing hands to flush the urine. Eco-bathroom is a concept design for a toilet and washbasin unit where the water used in the sink is stored to flush the toilet.
By this process, we don’t have to use water twice after using the toilet.
Moreover, it reduces the establishment expenses by optimizing the materials.
Eco-bathroom is a concept design for a toilet and washbasin unit where the water used in the sink is stored to flush the toilet.



Many lichens show varying degrees of sensitivity to man-made pollutants. Lichen are very sensitive to pollution such as the presence of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere.
Scientists have learned to use this variability as an indicator of the air quality of any given site.

Also, because the presence or absence of certain lichen species is easily recorded, and has in some cases been recorded at different times in the past, lichens can be a record through time of changing patterns of air quality.

Many lichens show a remarkable sensitivity to air quality. Some forms growing almost anywhere, others living in only the purist of atmospheres. When lichens disappear, they give early warning of harmful conditions.
Studies carried out in the 1970s in Europe were able to create a graded series of 10 zones with indicator species for each zone, varying from highly polluted to basically unpolluted or pristine.
The first category was no lichens, the second contained algae only, the third zone has Hypogymnia physodes and Parmelia caperata. The last zone was characterised by rare species such as Usnea articulata and Teleoschistes flavicans.

Lichens can also indicate past pollution by faded or abnormal colouring and patchiness in the centre of the thallus.


Bamboo scaffolding green wall
It’s amazing what a little ingenuity and tenacity to do something good for the community and the environment can do. As it was published in an inspiring story featured in Inhabitat, Norway-based MMW Architects came up with a low-impact, inexpensive and easy-to-construct green wall system using bamboo scaffolding. As the article reads, “Although bamboo is not a common material for Norway, it is quite versatile, very rigid, resistant to rot and completely reusable for future installations.” The installation, which they called Skien’s MerSmak-Festival, was erected on an existing concrete wall in the backyard of the Lundetangen Pub in Norway to provide easily accessible fruits, vegetables and herbs.
With only plastic clips to connect them, the bamboo poles arranged in a lattice design proved plenty strong enough to support the weight of an entire vertical garden containing diverse herbs and fruits, including heavy bags of soil. The continually growing vertical garden will eventually cover every nook and cranny of the bamboo scaffold to become a wall of luscious, healthy green hues. So not only does this living wall provide fresh humulus, parthenocissus, herbs and strawberries to the pub, but it also provides beautiful piece of nature in what would otherwise be a cold, concrete jungle.  Hence, this story serves as yet another shining example of the wonderful possibilities that exist through the application of durable, versatile and sustainable bamboo.


Snail art installation

Banded Snail


The lookout provides views over the reserve and the adjoining Dyfi estuary and serves as an orientation point for the locality as well as interpreting one of the important species within the dune system. Welsh Oak 3m x 6.5m x 5m. Sand retaining crib structure. The structure is designed to accept and nurture windblown seed and should over time develop it’s own unique colony of plants.


Mangal City

Design team Chimera has conceived of an incredible series of spiraling skyscrapers for New York’s Hudson Yards that are modeled after the complex ecosystems created by the mangrove tree. Dubbed “Mangal City”, the project is an “urban ecological system” composed of modular pod capsules that shift to adapt to environmental and contextual conditions. A beautiful example of biomimicry and certainly a flight of fancy, the plan proposes a futuristic building system based upon flexibility.

Featuring a twisting latticed frame reminiscent of Eric Vergne’s Manhattan skyscraper farms, “Mangal City” harnesses biomimetic principles borrowed from a range of sources. The skyscraper’s structure is modeled after mangrove trees, spiraling plant growth patterns, and the interaction of natural ecosystems.
The project was designed by Pierandrea Angius, Alkis Dikaios, Thomas Jacobsen, and Carlos Parraga-Botero and is a thesis proposal for the Masters of Architecture in Parametric Urbanism program at the AASchool of Architecture in London.
According to the designers, “our vision is to define an urban ecosystem which supports housing and cultural programs and has the ability to adapt, transform, mutate and adjust according to the specific urban and social character of the site”.

Tiantian Ren

Vegetal City Design

Vegetal City


Like an illustration from a child’s storybook, the Vegetal City concept by Luc Schuiten merges architecture with nature in such a way that it’s practically impossible to discern dwellings from actual vegetation.
Schuiten’s designs are the result of decades of observation and imagination, and his watercolor paintings depict a fantastical vision of how humans could build more intelligent cities that work in harmony with the earth instead of against it. The character of each of his cities is drawn from its environmental setting, including canyons in the desert and a ‘lotus city’ in a humid locale.


Biomimicry in architecture and the start of the Ecological Age

Some aspects of biomimicry have been played around with for a long time for example mimicking the structure of termite mounds. There have been a lot of architects who have toyed with biomimicry, but have been quite dependent on seductive imagery such as spiders' webs, but often the designs haven't been seen through in a particularly thorough way. Sometimes the examples from nature are just used as a departure point for developing original and whacky forms.

Michael Pawlyn believes in biomimicry -- the study of natural structures and processes in order to help solve man-made problems. The architect has founded his own architectural firmbased on its tenets, just published a book with RIBA on the practice and has spoken at TED on its virtues.
The book, Biomimicry in Architecture, not only gives examples of where biomimicry has been used, but also answers some of the issues that naysayers raise. These include how you could tackle water purification, energy needs and heating in a completely closed loop model where there is no waste.
Pawlyn argues that a lot of the technology needed to make this happen is already available. In the book, he points to George Chan's sorghum brewery in Tsumeb, Namibia, which was built to deliver "good beer, no pollution, more sales and more jobs". It produced 12 products instead of simply just beer and these included the nutrient-rich alga Spirulina, mushrooms grown in the spent grains and gas from an anaerobic digester which was used instead of burning wood.
What is needed is a shift in mindset -- perhaps even the way that we pay for things. Pawlyn suggests that we need to shift taxation away from employment and on to the use of resources, for example. "There are plenty of people who might scoff at the idea of zero waste or getting all of our energy from the sun, but the fact is that nature has existed that way and flourished for millions of years. Although the challenges are hellishly difficult, I'm absolutely convinced that they're possible," he says.
So far, he says, a lot of architects have simply made nods to biomimicry in their designs. Pawlyn states: "Some aspects of biomimicry have been played around with for a long time for example mimicking the structure of termitemounds. There have been a lot of architects who have toyed with biomimicry, but have been quite dependent on seductive imagery such as spiders' webs, but often the designs haven't been seen through in a particularly thorough way. Sometimes the examples from nature are just used as a departure point for developing original and whacky forms.
"If you look beyond the nice shapes in nature and understand the principles behind them, you can find some adaptations that can lead to new innovative solutions that are radically more resource efficient. It's the direction we need to take in the coming decades."
There are architectural firms that have fully embraced biomimicry. Pawlyn points to Tonkin Liu and structural engineer Ed Clark at Arup who were inspired by the forms of shells to create "a new form of construction derived from planar surfaces" -- the Shi Ling bridge.
But he acknowledges that it is practical issues, including time and money, which are getting in the way of a more widespread use of biomimicry. He says: "Most clients want things in a hell of a rush. There's a lot of pressure on both time and fees. If you're developing a new idea, there's normally a process of R&D that you need to go through. There's not normally enough time within a normal architectural commission to do that. There's very little decent R&D that goes on in the building industry. People would be shocked at how backward construction is compared to consumer electronics for example. The pace of change is painfully slow."
Despite the work of organisations like The Biomimicry Institute in the US, founded by science writer and consultant Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister, many architects simply don't know enough about the potential benefits of this mode. Pawlyn says that having a biologist at the design table right from the early stage of a project could not only change this but throw up some "major breakthroughs".
He put this to test with a recent project for his firm, Exploration, when the company was commissioned to create a concept study for a biomimetic office building. He adopted "a magnificent seven approach" to creating his team of architects, polymaths and "brilliant thinkers who I have got to know over the past 20 years". These included Professor of Biomimicry, Julian Vincent, David Crookes from structural engineers Fluid Structures and Graham Dodd fromArup R&D. "By starting without a defining vision and creating one collaboratively, I think we were able to create something that reflected the best of what everyone had to offer," Pawlyn says.
Exploration has now been asked by the client to put together a proposal to take things to the next stage. He admits though that the costs, as with any nascent technology, are still quite high: "The scheme at the moment looks quite expensive but that's because we've tried to identify the absolute ideals to get one of the most productive, enjoyable and energy efficient buildings ever created. Now what we need to do is work out what the right budget figure is to aim for."
There are companies out there, as Pawlyn describes them -- the "Googles of this world" -- for whom the idea of having "a really distinctive and charismatic building that promotes innovation and creativity" appeals. The cost of R&D is still prohibitive and nothing short of governmental intervention, pumping resources into innovation, will alleviate this, the architect argues.
Pawlyn himself has firmly tied his colours to the mast and is currently working on a TED book about rapid manufacturing -- a technology that he says could play a huge part in a shift to "an ecological age" in which buildings and even cities could be regenerative. We could use rapid prototyping and natural products such as cellulose, says Pawlyn, or even harvest carbon from the atmosphere to create biorock -- which is already being used in coral restoration projects.
Pawlyn enthuses: "For me, biomimicry is just one of the best sources of innovation to get to a world of zero waste because those are the rules under which biological life has had to exist. And it hasn't just existed in a really miserable, self-denying way, but in a celebrated, abundant and regenerative way. I think we need to move to a far more positive way of talking about the future. A lot of sustainable design has got very stuck in very familiar solutions and even familiar materials and forms, and so there's so much more to it."

Tiantian Ren

Leaf Veins Inspire New Model for Water and Electricity Distribution Networks

Lemon leaf with interconnected loops. Photo: RU

A team of biophysicists at Rockefeller University recently published a paper inPhysical Review Letters about a new way to design distribution networks based on the veins that carry water and nutrients in most tree leaves. This is a great example of biomimicry! Evolution by natural selection maybe be blind, but it has had billions of years of trial-and-error to figure out efficient and robust ways to do things. The interconnecting vein loops in leaves are a good example of that, and we can learn from them.

"Operations researchers have long believed that the best distribution networks for many scenarios look like trees, with a succession of branches stemming from a central stalk and then branches from those branches and so on, to the desired destinations. But this kind of network is vulnerable: If it is severed at any place, the network is cut in two and cargo will fail to reach any point "downstream" of the break."
A good example of that can be seen on the two pictures in this post. The big dots are damage in the network. In the pic on top, you can see that the flow isn't stopped, and can go everywhere in the network. In the second pic, the flow is stopped everywhere downstream of the damage point.
"Operations researchers have appreciated that these redundancies are an effective hedge against damage. What's most surprising in the new research, according to Marcelo O. Magnasco, head of the Laboratory of Mathematical Physics at Rockefeller University, is that the complex network also does a better job of handling fluctuating loads according to shifts in demand from different parts of the system -- a common real-world need within dynamic distribution networks."
This kind of network full of loops can also be found in the blood vessels of the retina, the architecture of some corals, and the structural veins of insect wings.
It remains to be seen if the benefits of more robust and easy to balance networks will outweigh the negatives (it would probably be more expensive), but I think resilience and robustness are worth a lot since our society is so dependent on these networks.


Tiantian Ren

Bird Skulls Inspire Lighter, Stronger Building Materials

(image via: andres harris)
“Skulls in general are extraordinary impact-resistant structures and extremely light at the same time as they protect the most important organs of an animal body and this performance and physical property can be applied in structure or architecture design,” says architect Andres Harris, who has studied animal bones – particularly bird skulls – extensively in a bid to design a highly efficient bio-inspired surface. Harris imagines mimicking the material for a large pavilion, and the blog Biomimetic Architecture notes that this concept could also be applied to cars.


Tiantian Ren

16 May 2012

All the water on earth

If you in some magic way could capture all the water available on earth into a bubble, this would be the size of it. Looks kind of tiny compared to the blue earth we're used to see. 96% of the bubble is water from the oceans, and most of the remaining 4% is either up in the atmosphere, captured in ice at the poles or underground, where we can't reach it. In other words: The amount of possible drinking water is not very large, and we all depend on it to be able to continue living life the way we do.

Samuel R

15 May 2012

Boxfish car

This example a couple of years ago of a major automobile company designing it's cars inspired by the shape of a boxfish, which here is claimed to be "almost as good as the ideal engineering shape".

It's aerodynamic qualities uses 20% less fuel consumption and an amazing 80% in nitrogen oxide emissions.

Old news, but quite beautiful stuff.

Samuel R

14 May 2012

Rotating building #2

This is Dubai's 138 915:th landmark.
The concept of a rotating building is of course fabulous. Imagine a building turning its "leaves" against the sun like a tree. Or changing its shape by the wind. With that said, I'm not reeeeeally sure that this little project lives up to my expectations.

The video is really "epic". (And yes, the quotation marks really makes sense here.)


Samuel R

Learning from fish schools

In biology, any group of fish that stay together for social reasons are said to be shoaling, and if, in addition, the group is swimming in the same direction in a coordinated manner, they are said to be schooling.
Fish derive many benefits from shoaling behaviour including defence against predators (through better predator detection and by diluting the chance of individual capture), enhanced foraging success, and higher success in finding a mate. It is also likely that fish benefit from shoal membership through increased hydrodynamic efficiency.

This theory states that groups of fish may save energy when swimming together, much in the way that bicyclists may draft one another in a peloton. Increased efficiencies in swimming in groups have been proposed for schools of fish and Antarctic krill.
Professor  Dabiri from the  Center for Bioinspired Engineering of Caltech (California Institute of Technology) and his team drew inspiration from fish behaviour within schools to develop a system  that could "demonstrate an alternative approach to wind farming that has the potential to concurrently reduce the cost, size, and environmental impacts of wind farms".

The position of  windmills in this wind farm in California are placed following a scheme similar to that of a fish school. Wind turbines can stand closer than usual without creating interferences to one another.

A big issue in designing wind farms is indeed that of the needed distance between different wind mill, which often might result in a landscape eyesore. Further study on this topic might help making wind energy plants more common and accepted.

Source : http://www.nationalgeographic.it/ambiente/2012/04/21/foto/energia_dalla_natura-978663/9/