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Sea mussel-inspired coating could pull dyes out of oceans
Sea mussels can inspire technology to remove industrial dyes from polluted rivers. Inspired by the sea mussel’s use of polydopamine-based chemistry to adhere itself to underwater surfaces, scientists in China have developed a functionalized coating on kaolin mineral that enables it to adsorb organic dyes in water. The research is detailed in this Spring Link article.
Giraffes remind us of life’s “evolutionary baggage”—an important awareness in the practice of biomimicry. Nature’s solutions are local optima (not usually global), yet amazingly still offer huge insights into life’s work-arounds. This fascinating Nautilus article offers a plethora of giraffe lessons worth exploring.
Plant ‘revival’ adaptation could spur innovation in multiple sectors
Some plants and animals can survive periods of extremely dry conditions using a process called cryptobiosis, in which they appear to be dead. Yet they can revive quickly when conditions are right. Researchers are mimicking this process by making artificial spores with protective shells, according to this Accounts of Chemical Science article. This research can benefit cell therapy, cell-based sensors, biocatalysis, high throughput screening, and even cosmetics.
Along with spider silk’s known set of remarkable attributes, scientists recently learned of the material’s “hyspersonic phononic bandgap” that allows for the control of both sound and light from traveling at hypersonic frequencies, according to this Nature.com article. This could be useful for designing new silk-inspired materials for applications in acousto-optical devices, such as optical cooling, and for tunable heat management applications.
This ‘smasher’ could help develop cancer detection technology
Here’s an amazing mentor for you: We’ve looked to the mantis shrimp before to see what we could learn about it’s massively powerful ‘smasher’ claw. Now, scientists are examining it’s eyesight as a cancer-fighting tool. You can watch a video about the shrimp, and learn more about it’s one-of-a-kind eyesight abilities in this NPR story.
Commonwealth looks to reverse climate change, with the help of biomimicry
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 52 countries around the world–many island nations–that are home to 2.2 billion people. In its effort to find fresh perspectives for potential innovation to combat climate change, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland invited Biomimicry 3.8 co-founder Janine Benyus to share biomimicry-based solutions at the Commonwealth’s Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change Workshop.
“If we can put pilot projects down on the ground in Commonwealth countries it will be like piloting the sort of regenerative world we need to create, making use of different biospheres, countries with different profiles,” Janine said in this Guardian article.
An ancient system for moving water to fields for irrigation is suggested as an inexpensive way to use these underground duct systems for a source of heating and cooling buildings in the Sahara. The Fouggara system uses underground and aboveground channels, according to this Science Direct article. A ground-air heat exchanger uses very little driving energy. Pumping air through these channels is suggested as a source for heating, cooling, and ventilation.
Plants may teach us how to collect solar energy even from devices that are not, themselves, wholly exposed to sunlight. Scientists in Korea have demonstrated that light receptors in the underground root systems of thale cress are activated by so-called “stem-piped light” from the plant’s sun-exposed shoots, according to this Science Magazine article.
Inspiration from the blue tarantula could create major sustainability win
Biomimicry Specialist Bor-Kai Hsiung’s PhD research into a novel form of structural color blue reminds us of how many of life’s secrets there are yet to discover. Bor-Kai came across the oddity of blue spiders and his biomimicry-infused curiosity has led him down a fascinating path of discovery, which you can read more about in this Raw Story article. Unlike many innovations, this one has the potential to leap-frog structural color technologies towards some real sustainable wins.
With tens of thousands of chemicals in commercial use since the beginning of the petrochemical era, the current practice of testing individual chemicals for safety is woefully inadequate, according to this Nature article. America’s top green chemists suggest a better way of safeguarding our modern society: develop standardized tests for both individual chemicals and finished products, and make these data public. Using nature as model and mentor, we increase the likelihood that new commercial chemicals and products will pass these tests.
How crickets are inspiring nanotechnology innovation
It might not be the first thing you think about when you think about “changing technology,” but a group of French scientists focused on advancing nanotechnology innovation has turned to biomimicry–and bugs in particular–to help inspired fresh approaches, according to this EE Times article. For one, they found that the hairs on cricket legs have “unmatched signal processing capabilities.”
Sustainably-generate energy, courtesy of blue-green algae
Blue-green algae, one of the oldest bacteria on earth, can switch its photosynthesizing apparatus off and on in response to high or low concentrations of nitrogen in its surroundings, respectively, according to this Current Biology article. Such control mechanisms will be useful as humans learn how to mimic and utilize photosynthesis to sustainably generate energy and synthesize useful chemicals.