One vital difference between the things humans make and the things the rest of nature makes is that when something breaks, manmade things can occasionally be fixed and glued together but overall things do not fix themselves.
If you break a bone it immediately begins to heal itself and animals such as the barred tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium) can regrow their tails to full length. The cells migrating to the wound and then slowly regenerating the salamander’s tail. The axolotl is a relative to the salamander and this animal can regenerate its tail, limbs, spinal cord, skin, and hear. The regrew limb is almost perfect and this animal has inspired research into human limb regeneration.
What if a bridge could fix developing microfractures before they become large cracks? The idea of self-healing has inspired humans to reimagine things that we make. Self-healing concrete that filling the matrix with tiny repair kits ready to release their contents to fill developing cracks would mean that bridge would last longer and they would also be safer.
There is also the idea of embedding living repair teams in our construction. New jaw-dropping solutions can emerge if we apply nature’s ways of not wasting materials and explore ways that materials can heal.
Nature uses structure in brilliant ways
Nature uses structure to change functions, for example, the leaves of the hornbeam tree have a corrugated fold pattern. The fold pattern allows for a balance between flexibility and rigidity which is an important function for the plant. Leaves are susceptible to wind damage and the leaf can minimize the damage by bending or folding the leaf.
The folding reduces the area of exposure. However, it is also important that the leaf can stay flat and rigid so that it can maximize the exposure to the sun for photosynthesis. A leaf must find a balance. The hornbeam tree uses as a pattern of crest and valley folds.
Purification of water
Water is a basic ingredient of life, and our bodies are more than half water. However, lack of access to clean water is a leading risk factor for infectious diseases. Today around 1 in 3 people globally lack access to safe drinking water.
What if it was possible to produce clean water using gravity?
All living things are made of cells. Too much water inside a cell will make a cell burst while too little and the cell will dry out and eventually die.
Aquammodate is a water purification technology that is mimicking the way a cell is forming its cell wall of silica and utilizing aquaporins to transport pure water across cell membranes. This technology uses only a filter and gravity to produce clean water.
Aquaporins are proteins that use their shape and the way electrical charge is distributed across the protein that they are made of to separate water from other molecules.
Plastic waste is a serious problem. The problem is its failure to degrade.
Plastic eating bacteria sounds like science fiction, yet, enzymes from bacteria might help fight plastic waste.
Would it not be fantastic. . .
It is easy to make a wishlist of problems that need a quick solution such as the emission of CO2. Looking at nature for solutions and inspiration is a wonderful step towards solving these problems. Nature uses ingenious ways to solve many of the problems that we are facing.
PO – provocations can help us search for cutting-edge solutions.
Plastic PO Disappear
Might trigger the search for ideas that after a plastic container filled with cream has been used you can pull a strip to release bacteria that eat the plastic or transform the container so that it can be put on the compost bin.
Tavelling PO minimize CO2
What ideas do you get?
Change is coming?
Admittedly, it is easy to lose the energy to keep on working towards better solutions. The media still loves to focus on climate deniers and politicians as well as scientists and policymakers are ignoring new ways of doing things. Short-term solutions and a focus on the economy are often preventing nature-inspired solutions to flourish. Yet, innovators are learning how to make their ideas more attractive by ensuring that everything can be used and in principle generate income.
Captured CO2 can be used to create. . . well, here you have a great challenge.