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Directory:Mimicking Living Organisms
Directory of technologies and resources relating to the mimicking of living organisms.
Aka: biomimicry, biomimetic
Rather bizarre, yet perhaps very worthwhile, new energy research efforts are focusing on the potential of mimicking the way in which living organisms produce and use energy. Such as how plants are able to convert sunlight into energy so efficiently or how nature is able to convert chemicals into thermal energy at room temperature in a highly efficient manner; a process that occurs in all living organisms (including yourself) and helps them have the energy they need to survive. It might be possible to one day build useful energy generation or storage products for mankind's power needs, or perhaps make our current energy technologies more efficient, based on the energy conversion processes used by nature every day.
Design Inspiration from Nature – Biomimicry for a Better Planet - From buildings and bridges to materials and medicine – examining the design of nature has aided in the development of almost every aspect of our lives, and most of us – often without realizing – benefit from these inspired revelations several times a day. A overview, including energy applications. (Inhabitat; July 16, 2010)
- Biomimicry: Designing with Nature - People at Natural Logic ask their clients to imitate life as model, mentor, and a measure of what works, and to change the way we conduct business to be more in harmony with nature. (RealitySandwitch; June 30, 2009)
Converting Chemicals Into Thermal Energy
Spontaneous ignition discovery has ORNL researcher fired up April 19, 2005
Zhiyu Hu believes it is possible to match nature's highly efficient method to convert chemicals into thermal energy at room temperature, and he has data and a published paper to support his theory.
In a paper scheduled to appear in the May 18 print issue of the American Chemical Society's Energy & Fuels, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Hu describes a novel method to achieve spontaneous ignition and sustained combustion at room temperature. He achieves this "nano-catalytic reaction" with nothing but nanometer-sized particles of platinum stuck to fibers of glass wool in a small jar with methanol and air – with no source of external ignition.
Although this began as little more than a curiosity, Hu quickly realized that the implications could be significant because of the potential gains in energy conversion and utilization. Hu now cites possibilities in the area of distributed power generation and perhaps military and homeland defense.
While additional research needs to be performed to understand the phenomena, Hu notes that natural organisms such as microbes, plants and animals obtain energy from oxidation of the same organic chemicals at their physiological, or body, temperatures. Many of these biological reactions also use metals as part of their enzyme catalysts. Still, this is a surprising result in the field of metal catalysis.
Mimicking Transpiration in Plants
- Artificial Leaves Generate Power by Pumping Water - Natural leaves constantly lose water through evaporation, as the water in their veins is pumped up to the top of the tree. This process, called transpiration, could also create a mechanical water pump effect in synthetic leaves, and be used to generate power. (PhysOrg; Aug. 3, 2009)
Mimicking Bioelectricity in animals
- BioElectricity / Mimicking Living Organisms >
Models of Eel Cells Suggest Electrifying Possibilities - Researchers at Yale University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believe it is possible to build artificial cells replicating the electrical behavior of electric eel cells. In fact, such artificial cells could deliver better performance — as much as 40% more energy than real eel cells, a computer model suggests. (Slashdot) (EurekaAlert!; Oct. 5, 2008)
Mimicking Bioelectricity in insects
- Wind >
Green Wavelength unveils bumblebee inspired wind turbine - Green Wavelength's 19-foot, aluminum and carbon fiber prototype known as XBee can be mounted both vertically and horizontally and the blades move in a figure eight motion. The design is expected to improve annual energy output, though the exat efficiency has not yet been fully tested. They are targeting an output of between 1 and 10 kW. (See video) (GizMag; November 5, 2009)
- Natural Solar Collectors on Butterfly Wings Inspire More Powerful Solar Cells - The discovery that butterfly wings have scales that act as tiny solar collectors has led scientists in China and Japan to design a more efficient solar cell that could be used for powering homes, businesses, and other applications in the future. (Newswise; Feb. 4, 2009)
Mimicking Geometric Structures in Nature
- Piezoelectric / Nanotech / Biomimicry / Water Heating >
Vein-Like Piezoelectric Shower Harvests Water Pressure to Heat Water - This concept for a self-heating piezoelectric shower combines inspiration from the human body’s circulatory system with technological innovations in piezoelectricity. The fluid web of piping heats water by utilizing energy from friction produced by flowing water through the piezoelectric nano channels, which produces electricity by which heat is applied to the water. (Inhabitat; Apr. 29, 2010)
- Humpback flipper may be the key to better wind turbines - WhalePower Corp features a blade design that mimics the aerodynamically efficient design of a humpback whale’s flipper, allowing a turbine to capture more of the wind's energy, and at much lower speeds.
- PAX Scientific mimics nature's design for fans - Company designs fans, impellers, propellers, mixers based on the geometries of a whirlpool. The result is an approximate 33% improvement in efficiency, reduced noise, size and cost.
- Flight >
Spiraling maple tree seeds inspire world's smallest single-winged rotocraft - Students at the University of Maryland have turned to nature to create a flying device -- possibly the world's smallest controllable single-winged rotocraft -- that can hover and perform surveillance duties, and that could lead to applications for military and emergency services. (GizMag; October 21, 2009)
- Featured: Ocean Wave Energy / Biomimetics >
Wave Motion of Clouds - As another example of the macrocosm mirroring the microcosm, a 30x timelapse video of clouds around Canary Island in Spain resemble ocean waves crashing into a shore line. Good luck tying this in to practical energy research. (PESWiki; April 3, 2010)
Mimicking Plants Ability to Convert Solar Energy
Mimicking Plants' Self-Assembly
- Nanotech / Biomimetics / Solar >
Plant-Mimicking Solar Cells Can Self-Assemble - Scientists at MIT have created a breakthrough solution to one of the biggest problems facing solar cells by mimicking the world's best harvesters of solar energy: plants. Over time, sunlight breaks down the materials in solar cells, leading to a gradual degradation of devices aiming to harvest the energy in that light. Plants don't have this problem. (EcoGeek; Sept. 7, 2010)
Mimicking Plants' Self-Repair
- Solar > Mimicking Organisisms >
Designing Solar Cells That Will Self-Heal Like Plants - Researchers at Purdue University have created artificial photosystems using optical nanomaterials to harvest solar energy that is converted to electrical power. Using plants as their point of inspiration, which self-repair by using natural photosynthetic systems, the team’s design exploits the unusual electrical properties of structures called single-wall carbon nanotubes. (Inhabitat; February 10, 2011)
Mimicking Insects Solar
- Photosynthesis Imitation >
Scientists find natural photovoltaic cell in hornet, and copy it - The oriental hornet is more active during the day, and tends to become even more active as the temperature rises. And now scientists have discovered the reason: the hornets are solar powered. It turns out that the distinctive yellow stripe on the hornet's abdomen is actually full of tiny protrusions that gather sunlight and harness it for energy. (GizMag; December 6, 2010)
As concern about the Greenhouse Effect increases, scientists have been searching for renewable power sources that do not use carbonaceous resources such as natural gas, coal and oil. The sun's light energy, if harnessed efficiently, would be one of our most abundant renewable energy sources. Photovoltaic cells fulfill this function of providing a clean source of power; however, they are expensive to produce and their maximum efficiency is only 20%. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico are hoping to far surpass that level with bio-solar cells that are inexpensive to produce and that mimic natural photosynthesis.
Inside the plant cell, light energy is captured to provide the fixation of CO2 into sugars for respiration. The function of bio-solar cells is to convert light or photon energy into an electric current instead of sugars. They capture a photon of light from the sun in the same way that chlorophyll in plants captures light. Chlorophyll and the pigments used in bio-solar cells are organic molecules arranged in rings and chains of conjugated bonds. They are composed of chains of conjugated alkenes and conjugated systems of cyclic pyrines arranged into porphyrin rings. Depending on the complexity of their conjugated system, these molecules absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect and fluoresce others. This is why leaves are green.
Mimicking Nature's Engine
Scientists at ASU’s Center for the Study of Early Events in Photosynthesis are one step closer to mimicking the way plants harvest and exploit the sun’s energy.
The researchers used a microscopic device to convert light into chemical energy, which in turn can be harnessed and used for other purposes. Ultimately the development could lead to new strategies for harnessing solar power. Related research could lead to higher crop yields, imaging agents for the earlier detection of cancerous tumors, and faster, smaller electronic circuits.
Mimicking Mother Nature
05/20/96 by Eric Mankin
To a chemist, a plant leaf is an automated factory that captures light from the sun - using chlorophyll - and instantly puts this energy to work to create a host of complex substances. Chemist Mark E. Thompson hopes someday to copy this trick. In the April 18 issue of Nature, he reported the first step: the creation of a "chemophyll" designed to capture solar energy for instant molecule making.
Like solid-state silicon solar cells, the prototype substance absorbs light and converts it into electrical potential. Unlike solar cells, but like chlorophyll, the new substance delivers this electrical potential in a form that's immediately usable for chemical reactions.
"This material would be inefficient at powering a device, like a radio or a hair dryer, that runs on electric current," Thompson said. "But it could be an extremely effective power source for chemical processes like breaking down water into oxygen and hydrogen or making methane [gas] out of carbon dioxide to create clean-burning fuels."
In plant photosynthesis, Thompson explains, the chlorophyll molecule instantly hands off the energy it captures to drive a series of chemical reactions synthesizing new plant tissue. This 'hand-off' mechanism also keeps the reaction going one-way, preventing loss of the captured energy.
"Materials like the one we have synthesized have a similar capability," said Thompson, an associate professor of chemistry in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. "Indeed, they might be called 'chemophylls,' because they could form the power source of man-made devices that, like green plants, would continuously make useful products as long as they are exposed to light."
- Termite guts can save the planet - The way termite guts process food could teach scientists how to produce pollution-free energy and help solve the world's imminent energy crisis, said Nobel laureate Steven Chu. (PhysOrg; April 13)
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