Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists and engineers apply nature’s design to human problems

31.10.2005


Copying the ideas of others is usually frowned upon, but when it comes to the work of Mother Nature, scientists are finding they can use nature as a template.



An interdisciplinary group of scientists and engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently formed the Center for Biologically Inspired Design (CBID) with the goal of capitalizing on the rich source of design solutions present in biological processes. The researchers believe nature can inspire design and engineering solutions that are efficient, practical and sustainable and thus have the potential to greatly enhance new technologies, materials and processes.

"Biology can be a powerful guide to understanding problems in design and engineering," said Associate Professor of Biology Marc Weissburg, CBID co-director. "In comparative physiology, we teach that every animal has to solve a particular problem to survive, so every animal is a design solution for a particular problem.


"They can provide solutions for more efficient manufacturing and design of materials with new capabilities, for example. These are things the biological world has solved, and if you study them, you have the opportunity to apply that knowledge in the human sector. You can also extend that reasoning to ecological processes. These are guiding principles behind the Georgia Tech Center for Biologically Inspired Design." CBID’s mission is to promote world-class interdisciplinary research and education at Georgia Tech in biologically inspired design. CBID researchers also want to communicate to government and industry officials that nature can provide unique design solutions to the problems they must address. CBID director and Professor of Biology Jeannette Yen is beginning this process with an invited talk on the center’s mission and activities on Oct. 29 at the Bioneers Southeast Forum on the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art & Design. This conference is one of 20 similar "town hall" meetings held annually in North America.

Bioneers is a network of citizens, scientists and entrepreneurs that explores practical solutions adapted from natural systems and native cultures and then applies these solutions to fundamental environmental, economic and social challenges. Its long-term goal is to engage leaders in various fields in a conversation and learning process to help them understand the root causes of the region’s economic, social and environmental problems, according to its Website (http://www.inspiringfutures.org/bioneers/workshopdescriptions). Then leaders can make decisions based on the long-term impacts on the broader community and the natural environment.

"This is a key invitation for us," Yen said. "It’s a great opportunity to get connected locally with leaders in the region." Yen will present the mission and activities of CBID, which formed this past summer with a three-year internal seed grant. The idea for the center began with discussions between Yen and Weissburg. Weissburg’s interest grew out of his research for the Office of Naval Research on understanding olfactory guidance in crabs. The Navy was interested in this process because it wanted to build autonomous devices with a similar capability, he explained.

Then, earlier this year, Yen, Weissburg and Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Craig Tovey studied with Bioneer and biomimicry expert Janine Benyus for 10 days in Costa Rica.

"We wanted to see how nature does things like gathering and transporting energy, and then see if we can translate those processes for human applications," Yen said. "Georgia Tech is a great place to do this kind of research. It provides engineers who want to apply their expertise with biologists a new way to design solutions to problems."

After this experience, the idea for the center developed further with the help of a biological metaphor – that of an "invasive" species, with the Center as the new species and Georgia Tech as the established community that is productive and successful. "Invasive species can have a negative connotation, but we’re not talking about disrupting the community," Weissburg explained. "We’re talking about augmenting it and adding to its functionality and activity. We used the analogy of a new species trying to fit into a community as a way to think about what our center could do to increase the productivity of the Tech ’ecosystem.’"

As CBID encourages interaction among its initial 17 members, Yen expects an increase in biomimetic research – that is, research in biologically inspired design. Already, however, biomimetic research projects are under way in biosensing, materials design, locomotory devices, systems organization and "green" technology.

Examples include:

  • Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Minami Yoda is developing an auditory retina based on the fish ear.
  • School of Materials Science and Engineering Professor Ken Sandhage and School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Assistant Professor Nils Kröger explore nanostructure synthesis via the self-assembled, biomineralized template -- the marine diatom.
  • Tovey is designing Web-hosting optimization techniques based on the foraging strategy of honey bees.
  • Assistant Professor of Applied Physiology Young-Hui Chang and Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Lena Ting use neuro-mechanical control principles derived from animals to engineer prosthetics and robots.

Yen noted that biomimetry even offers inspiration for the way students -- and faculty – learn. "Like animals, we can learn by playing," Yen explained. "We’re looking to nature as our template."

Jane M. Sanders | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.edi.gatech.edu

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues
16.08.2017 | University of Oxford

nachricht Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary

21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cnidarians remotely control bacteria

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>