Water Conservation

Water Conservation

Time for another blog about babies!!

Just kidding – its about water conservation 🙂

The picture however, is of the two little boys that I babysit, playing with their water guns. As I filled and re-filled their water guns over and over, I thought back on my Biomimetics project and realized how much we take advantage of water. The final project for class was based on the Biomimicry Student Design Challenge (https://www.biomimicrydesignchallenge.com/p/about) where each team set out to tackle the issue of water management and conservation using a bioinspired design. Until being assigned this project, I had not realized the global issue of water conservation and how many countries (including the US) have limited water resources. Now I feel ashamed of every water bottles I’ve purchased, my 30 minute showers, and how many times I refilled those water guns!

For our design, we chose to stick to local water management issues, and developed a design that would focus on run off water in Philadelphia. Quick background: when it rains a lot, the sewage system over flows and untreated water goes into our streams, which we then drink (EW!). Basically, yucky water that is filled with pollutants including animal waste, goes straight into the rivers from which we drink. Gross.

We based our design off of “Baffle Boxes” which are used in Florida. The baffle box is a a giant box that has three compartments in it. As the water fills in the first box, sedimentation and garbage sink to the bottom and don’t pass onto the second compartment. By the time the water flows out of the third compartment, most of the garbage and large particles have been filtered out. We found this design to be practical and great for urban use, however, small particles (hormones, metal ions) were not being filtered out. We decided to optimize the design with a bit of biomimetics. We landed on an additional filtration system, using cross-flow filtration pads, inspired by the whale shark. Filtration systems are commonly set up as dead end filtration systems, meaning, water flows through some soft of filter perpendicularly. The issue with dead end filtration is that it clogs up quickly as particles collect on the filter pads. The whale shark, however, uses crossflow filtration which means that the water is flowing parallel to the filter pads, which results in little clogging and can trap even smaller particles than dead end filtration. This addition to the baffle box would filter out the water even better, meaning that the run off water would be as clean as possible. yay for whale sharks!

Can biomimetics be used to cheat: biomimetics gone wrong

Can biomimetics be used to cheat: biomimetics gone wrong

A few weeks ago in my physiology class, we learned about blood doping and the issues that it presents for cheating in athletics. The basic idea behind blood doping is that an athlete extracts a few pints of his own blood out before a competition, stores it, and then a few days before competing, re-introduces the blood back into his body. The result would be increased endurance and stamina due to more hemoglobin presence (the protein that carries oxygen to your tissue). Blood doping, however, is considered cheating and organizations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency exist to ensure anti-doping laws are enforced.

Blood doping made me think of the role that biomimetics plays in sports and if using bio-inspired uniforms, equipment, or training would be considered cheating. A popular example that I could find are swimming speedo’s that were inspired by shark skin. The line is called “Speedo’s Fastskin and Speedo LZR” and were inspired by sandpaper like texture of shark skin. This texture is supposed to reduce drag, allowing for the swimmer to gain speed. Interestingly enough, the more I read on the topic, the more I realized that I wasn’t the only one who may consider bio-inspired swim suits to be considered cheating and in fact, not bio-inspired at all. Apparently, in 2009, Speedo developed a line of swim suits that drastically decreased drag by using a non-permeable material. This was later banned, so they moved onto the idea of using shark skin as a model for swim trunks. This idea, however, proved to be incorrect. Shark skin works more like flapping wings (yay!!!). As the shark moves, you get a separation of flow (like with an airplane) where the teethy part of the skin create a low pressure zone making a leading-edge vortex, while the water moves over the skin, allowing the shark to propel forward. The teethy things actually help create a stronger leading-edge vortex (so there will be a strong suck/pull forward). This however, only works when the skin is actually attached to the flexible/moving body. In a humans case, they are simply wearing the swimsuit, not actually attached to it.

So….Speedo company are confused about how a shark swims (they use leading edge voracity, not drag) and designed a silly swimsuit and marketed it as “swimming like a shark.” I’ll speak up for sharks even though I’m terrified of them – Speedo, shark-off!

Origami Strollers

Origami Strollers

Baby strollers are a clunky, heavy and annoying necessity for every mom (and babysitter, like me). They usually weigh a ton, are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to open and collapse, and don’t have enough space to hold the plethora of diapers, snacks, toys and bottles needed for the haul to the park (the worst kind are the ones that don’t have a cup holder). However, as much as we hate them, no mom can live without a stroller.

In class, we hit on the origami topic and how practical it would be if items could just neatly fold into themselves, like origami! I immediately thought to myself, “someone has to invent a retractable, origami like stroller!” Thankfully, the bright minds at Thorley Industries have developed just that. I posted the link above. It’s definitely worth taking the time to watch the video – even if you have no foreseeable need for a stroller, it’s still cool to see what they’ve come up with.

This origami inspired stroller not only opens and closes with a touch of a button, but it chargers itself (and your cell phone!) as you walk. It has an LCD screen that tells you the time and temperature, a cup holder (score!) and comes in several colors. It costs about $900 which may sound steep, but most strollers are in that price range or higher, and they don’t open and close on their own. This group took it even further and developed an origami play pen. If you’ve ever tried setting up a play pen, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of their design.

Take a minute to check out their website and their 4 products to see some baby biomimetic action 🙂


Lobster inspired robots

jessFor this weeks blog, I originally set out to write about lobster claws and how they’ve influenced robot arms. However, while researching, I came upon a publication from the International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems which I found to be so interesting. The link to the paper is attached to this post.

The paper mainly focuses on biomimetic underwater microrobots and where they are being used today (pollution detection, video mapping, exploration, etc).

An excerpt reads: “Nature provides the best models for robots. Living creatures furnish an abundance of structures for biomimetic robot design. Aside from fish‐like and manta‐ray‐like swimming locomotion, we have developed several microrobots that employ biomimetic locomotion to implement walking, floating and swimming motions. However, each of these units implements only some of these motions and none of them are able to carry out simple tasks such as grasping and carrying objects to a desired position, detecting an object, or avoiding an obstacle. In order to create a compact structure with efficient and precise locomotion, and multi‐functionality, we have developed a new microrobot with nine IPMC actuators, used as legs or fingers.” All in all – a lobster robot! The picture above shows the basic design of the robot. The robot uses nine actuators as legs or fingers, they are 14 mm long, 3 mm wide and .22 mm thick (tiny!). Overall, the robot is only 65 mm in length, 9 mm high and 50 mm wide. The robot is staying true to the dimensions of the average lobster, and used direct inspiration from the biology of a lobster to implement locomotion. Take a look at pages 10 and 11 to see the robot in action!


Going Viral

Going Viral

Viruses are interesting little robots. Once they find a host, they stick around, replicating themselves and taking over.

Biologically, we know of several types of viruses and their goal – find a host, live off the host (viruses cannot survive without a host). This made me think of computer viruses and whether or not they are considered to be biomimetic, or is it simply a coincidence?

Biological viruses have the following cycle: the virus finds a host cell, infiltrates the host cells and releases its genetic information to the host, uses the host to make more viruses, and lastly, releases the newly made viruses which are ready to infect more healthy cells.

How does a computer virus work? In simple terms, a computer virus is a small piece of software that hides in real software. Every time you open up the software, the virus takes the chance to replicate and attach itself to other programs.

In other words, they work the same way! Whether or not a computer virus came from a biologically inspired idea or not, they have proved to be very elusive and dangerous.

Moral of the story: let’s use biomimetics for good, not for infecting people’s computers 🙂

My little “Joey”

My best friend had a baby! She is the first of my little group to move onto the “married with children” life. Alas, I’ve entered the 25-30 age range, life’s about to get real.
As I helped her shop for the baby, I found that most new moms these days are using slings to hold their babies. In fact, the slings are called “Mama Kangaroo Baby Carries!” Apparently, when kangaroos give birth, the pups, or “joeys”, are a bit underdeveloped. The joeys crawl from the mother’s womb and into the pouch where it finishes off development by latching onto the mothers nipple. Great idea for kangaroos, but why are humans trying to copy it?
The mama kangaroo baby carrier claims to be ergonomic. It spreads the weight of the baby evenly and therefore, more comfortable to wear as opposed to carrying the baby, or carrying the baby in a car seat. I can attest that car seats are really heavy, not including the added baby weight!
Watching my girlfriend hold her little baby like a mother kangaroo was adorable, but also brought to light that biomimetics is all around us. The design for the sling was modeled after something that marsupials have been doing for a long time.
Enjoy the pic of my sweet nephew! (yes, I’m calling him my nephew).

Hello Blog World

Hello Blog World

Time to break out of my shell. First blog ever. Woo!

Cute picture, right? The picture depicts perfectly what I love about science and engineering; we make amazing things happen, just like magic. What’s even cooler than that, is that magic happens all around us in nature and nature serves as an inspiration for science and engineering.

During last weeks class, our professor gave us the example of how several air plane parts were modeled after the beehive. A beehive, home to a swarm of bees and their honey, is light weight yet strong. What perfect parameters for a part to a plane! This example is one of tons, and I am so excited to be taking Biomimetics and Bioinspiration this semester to start viewing the world a little less restricted and a little more creatively.