Reducing our industrial energy requirements – a lesson from biomimetics

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Julian F.V. Vincent, Olga Bogatyreva, Nikolaj Bogatyrev, Anja-Karina Pahl and Adrian Bowyer Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies,
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
The University, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK

ABSTRACT

We have categorised the methods used to resolve technical problems into six major operational fields: those where the problem is resolved by changing the energy input, the material, the structure, the space, the time, or the information. These data have been gleaned from TRIZ [1] databases (for technology) and our own research (in biology). We have arranged the effects from which these solutions are derived according to the size at which they occur (from nm to km) and the approximate level of their hierarchy, and in doing so we have noted that in technology most problems (up to 60% at the nm-mm level) are solved by the manipulation of energy, more especially at the lower end of the size range. In biology, similar problems are solved by manipulating space and, at larger sizes, information; the manipulation of energy as a parameter is constant and very low (about 5%) across the entire size range.

This suggests that biology achieves its effects (i.e. life) by the spatial (re)-organisation of a few materials in which information is embedded as part of their synthesis. Perhaps man should adopt this approach in solving technical problems, using available materials to form structured hybrids, rather than inventing and developing a new material each time novel properties are desired. 

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