Make Like a Firefly
Biomimetics puts a new meaning into “Make like a tree.” Yes, make things like trees, snails, fireflies, and a thousand other creatures do, and life can be inspiring.
See what the following organisms have to offer:
Fireflies: A new LED inspired by fireflies is 55% more efficient, reported PhysOrg. The team lead said, “will continue to explore the great diversity of the natural world, searching for new sources of knowledge and inspiration.”
Skin: Who would have thought your skin would inspire design of a generator? Scientists at MIT and Harvard did. In Science, they wrote about their “Bio-Inspired Polymer Composite Actuator and Generator Driven by Water Gradients.” They’ve designed a water-actuated polymer film that “can generate contractile stress up to 27 megapascals, lift objects 380 times heavier than itself, and transport cargo 10 times heavier than itself.” They were “Inspired by the network structure of animal dermis, in which rigid collagen fibers reinforce an elastic network of elastin microfibrils to form a sturdy and flexible material,” they said.
Tissue: Human tissues inspired the creation of 3-D scaffolds for tissue repair, according to Science Daily. A team of researchers from international hospitals designed a stretchable polymer that will allow stem cells to be positioned where needed. The abstract of the paper in Tissue Engineering, entitled “Biomimetic Three-Dimensional Anisotropic Geometries by Uniaxial Stretch of Poly(ɛ-Caprolactone) Films for Mesenchymal Stem Cell Proliferation, Alignment, and Myogenic Differentiation,” states, “Here, we present a novel simple, solvent-free, and reproducible method via uniaxial stretching for incorporating anisotropic topographies on bioresorbable films with ambitions to realize stem cell alignment control.”
DNA: Science Magazine reported a new record for DNA storage of digitized information: 2.2 petabytes per gram (a petabyte is a thousand terabytes or a million gigabytes). “At the storage density achieved, a single gram of DNA would hold 2.2 million gigabits of information, or about what you can store in 468,000 DVDs,” the article said. Calling DNA a p”erfect storage medium, the Nick Goldman and team stored photographs, sound and text, including all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The team believes it will remain stable for thousands of years, even without electricity or constant maintenance. The team also retrieved the stored information with 100% accuracy. See also the BBC News, Nature News and PhysOrg. For all the celebration, observers will note that nature had it first, using a stable aperiodic molecule that can store up to an exabit (1018 bits, a thousand petabits) of information per cubic millimeter, according to Dr. Dean Kenyon in the Q&A section of the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life.
Snails: Snails have teeth? Yes, marine snails called chitons do, and upcoming solar panels might thank them for it. Science Daily shows a large chiton’s teeth, and promises “less costly and more efficient nanoscale materials to improve solar cells and lithium-ion batteries” by the skin of their teeth. How can that be? Well, these marine snails that feed on algae on rocks have a rasping tool called a radula, with “a conveyer belt-like structure in the mouth that contains 70 to 80 parallel rows of teeth.” It allows them to replace the front teeth continuously at the same rate they are shed with materials containing magnetite, one of the hardest minerals known. Cool, said David Kisailus from UC Riverside, who “uses nature as inspiration to design next generation engineering products and materials,” the article said. He’s amazed at how the chiton uses available materials at room temperature to build these highly-effective tools. His paper analyzing the process includes visions of how the same principles could allow engineers to construct tools from nanocrystals “at significantly lower temperatures, which means significantly lower production costs.”
Catalysts: Cells are filled with molecular machines called enzymes that catalyze slow chemical reactions to fantastically rapid rates. A paper in Science 18 January discussed “Re-engineering nature’s catalysts” that demonstrates “biomimicry paradigm in reverse” – that is, “altering the function of one of nature’s most versatile biocatalysts is directed to a transformation originally conceived and implemented by synthetic chemists.” Actually, it’s straightforward biomimicry, too: you have an idea, and you look how nature solved it.
The authors of this paper claimed, “Directed evolution is one of the most successful approaches toward achieving these goals. This method is a laboratory-based, accelerated version of natural evolution.”
Exercise: Before we tell you, try to identify the fallacy in that last sentence.
The wonderful world of biomimetics proceeds apace. It’s kind of surprising that the Biomimicry Revolution is happening now, after Darwin’s Century portrayed a world of happenstance, bloodshed, and survival in a natural world personified as a blind watchmaker, whose invisible hand tinkers with whatever parts are around, cobbling together slapdash solutions to immediate threats to survival. Look at all these exquisite designs in life! They are so good, the world’s greatest minds can’t get enough of them. The new view of nature inspires awe. Whole new biomimicry institutes have sprung up, with new journals to share the latest findings.
Scientists are astonished that plants can fix nitrogen at room temperature, that geckos can employ atomic forces to climb glass, and that dragonflies can process optic flow better than high-speed computers. Those are things engineer struggle to do. This is the Information Century, where intelligence is king. Darwinism is a ball and chain holding back this new era. Claiming that lab-based, accelerated selection is like natural evolution is wholly wrong. It’s the opposite! It’s intelligent design. The researchers have a goal in their minds; then they select out of random trials the results they want. Natural evolution is short-sighted, blind, careless – it doesn’t even care about survival, because it doesn’t care about anything. “Directed evolution” is, therefore, a colossal oxymoron. If they really care about making the world a better place with sustainable technology, it will do secular scientists no harm to silently shed their photos of Papa Darwin and get on board with the new show in town that’s able to do it.