Innovative Reforestation Wins Ray of Hope Prize

The Atlantic rainforest in Brazil is a unique ecosystem. June 1, 2017 (Photo by Ulrich Peters) Creative commons license via Flickr

The Atlantic rainforest in Brazil is a unique ecosystem. June 1, 2017 (Photo by Ulrich Peters) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

SAN RAFAEL, California, October 23, 2018 ( News) – A Brazilian team of entrepreneurs has won the $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation 2018 Ray of Hope Prize for the Nucleário Planting System, an all-in-one reforestation solution that mimics elements of natural forest progression to reduce maintenance costs and improve seedling survival rates.

With deforestation contributing an estimated 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, countries, nonprofit organizations and innovators are mobilizing to quickly restore foreststo avoid catastrophic climate change.

Developed for the use in Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest, Nucleário was designed for multiple functions – collecting rain and dew water, providing protection from leaf cutter ants and invasive species, supplying shade for the seedling, and deployment from the air.

Applied in the field, the Nucleário Planting System makes the forest restoration process simpler and more cost-effective. With this method, Nucleário can get more trees in the ground in less time, helping make it possible to achieve environmental goals like the Paris Agreement on climate.

Nucleário was created by Bruno Rutman Pagnoncelli, Pedro Rutman Pagnoncelli, and Bruno Ferrari. The Nucleário team was awarded the prize at the National Bioneers Conference in San Rafael on Saturday, October 20.

The Ray of Hope Prize is the top award in the Biomimicry Launchpad, an accelerator program run by the Biomimicry Institute that supports entrepreneurs working to bring early-stage biomimetic, or nature-inspired, climate change solutions to market.

Traditional rain forest restoration approaches in remote areas are logistically complex and expensive, requiring manual work and periodic visits to the reforestation areas.

Currently, 17 million hectares (14.2 million acres) of degraded areas are designated as potential lands for Atlantic forest restoration in Brazil.

Inspired by winged seeds, bromeliads, and forest leaf litter, Nucleário is a reforestation solution for forests in degraded and hard to reach areas, helping seedlings grow without human maintenance.

Made of biodegradable materials, the Nucleário device ensures that seedlings survive by providing a protection from leaf cutter ants, collecting water from rain and dew, offering shade, and protecting against invasive species.

Like anemochory seeds, the Nucleário is structured to be weightless and incorporate air chambers, which allows it to act as both a glider and parachute and enables aerial deployment.

Each Nucleário contains a functional group of tree species ready to germinate. Inspired by the bromeliad’s hydraulic specialization, the Nucleário trap shape accumulates dew and rain water and reduces evaporation, slowly hydrating the seedlings during the dry seasons. The water accumulation also attracts biodiversity.

The Nucleário shape emulates the leaf litter in a forest, stopping the Brachiaria grass growth around the seedling and protecting the soil against leaching and strong sunlight, which elevates soil moisture and fertility.

In the field, the Nucleário improves the working conditions of the planting teams and reduces costs for labor, transport, irrigation, fertilizers and insecticides.

It mimics how bromeliads collect water from rain and dew to provide a microclimate that attracts biodiversity.

“This simple but impactful biomimicry-inspired innovation has the potential to transform reforestation efforts and help reverse global warming,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

“The six judges were impressed with all of the teams, but the Nucleário stood out because they have a clear understanding of the path to commercialization,” said Lanier.

Brazil is one of the main producers and exporters of agricultural products, with more than 300 million hectares destined to agriculture, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. But this sector is also responsible for tons of carbon in the atmosphere, warming the planet.

The Brazilian government has said it intends to reforest 12 million hectares by 2030, as a goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

A set of studies by the Center for Sustainability Studies of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation and Instituto Escolhas calculated the resources needed to achieve this goal. The estimated investment cost was $31 billion Brazilian Reals (€7.9 billion) (US$8.3 billion).

Beth Rattner, Biomimicry Institute executive director, said, “30 by 30 – land use being 30 percent of climate change solutions by 2030 – is the most promising news on the horizon because it is highly feasible. Reforestation is a real part of this plan and yet most efforts on this front are failing because young saplings need extra help to survive.”

“Nucleário has captured proven strategies straight from the forest to make their product, which is something no one else has tried before,” said Rattner. “We are immensely hopeful about the impact this will have.”

A $25,000 Ray of Hope second prize, funded by an anonymous donor, went to a team with members from Mexico and the United States, who created Biomimicry Launchpad, a thermal management system that harvests waste heat from large commercial buildings and cycles it back into the system.

The BioThermosmart design was inspired by elephants, crocodiles, toucan beaks, and the human circulatory system to create a system of heat transfer patches that help facility directors manage excess heat.

A total of six international teams spent the past year in the Biomimicry Launchpad, the world’s only accelerator for early-stage, nature-inspired innovations.

The Launchpad is part of the Biomimicry Institute’s Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, a global competition sponsored by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation that asks innovators to create radically sustainable climate change solutions inspired by the natural world.

As winners of the Challenge, these teams were invited to join the Biomimicry Launchpad to get support in testing and prototyping their ideas, with the ultimate goal of bringing their climate change solutions to market.

A new round of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge has just launched, focused again on finding nature-inspired climate-change solutions. It is a new opportunity for teams to join and compete for the annual $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize®. Individuals and teams can learn more about the Challenge at

Featured Image: The Nucleário Planting Device is a winner. (Photo by Nucleário Planting System) Posted for media use

Creating Pure Colors the Rainbow Beetle Way

The rainbow weevil has distinctive colored spots on its body made up of nearly-circular scales arranged in concentric rings of different hues. (Photo courtesy National University of Singapore) Posted for media use.

The rainbow weevil has distinctive colored spots on its body made up of nearly-circular scales arranged in concentric rings of different hues. (Photo courtesy National University of Singapore) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

SINGAPORE, September 27, 2018 ( News) – Picture a unique color-generation mechanism in nature that has the potential to create cosmetics and paints with purer, more vivid hues, or create screen displays on phones or tablets that project the same true image when viewed from any angle.

The mechanism also can be used to make reflective cladding for optical fibers to minimize signal loss during transmission.

Scientists from Yale-NUS College in Singapore and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland found this mechanism by studying the wing casings [elytra] of a beetle – a snout weevil from the Philippines, Pachyrrhynchus congestus pavonius, known informally as the rainbow weevil.

Yale-NUS College Assistant Professor of Life Science Dr. Vinodkumar Saranathan led the study with Dr. Bodo Wilts from the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg.

Dr. Saranathan told reporters, “This is very exciting. I’ve never seen anything like this. The tremendous diversity of colors on this one bug.”

There are two ways to make color, Saranathan explained. Color can be obtained with pigments or dyes, or it can be made structurally, with no pigment involved, “the way the sky is blue,” he said. The colors that can be derived from the rainbow weevil are formed in the structural way.

Dr. Saranathan examined the rainbow-colored patterns in the rainbow weevil’s wing casings using high-energy X-rays, while Dr. Wilts performed detailed scanning electron microscopy and optical modelling.

They discovered that to produce the rainbow palette of colors, the weevil utilized a color-generation mechanism that has been found only in squid, cuttlefish, and octopuses, known for their color-shifting camouflage.

The rainbow weevil is distinct for the colored spots on its thorax and wing casings. These spots are made up of nearly-circular scales arranged in concentric rings of different hues, ranging from blue in the center to red at the outside, like a rainbow.

While many insects have the ability to produce one or two colors, it is rare that a single insect can produce such a wide spectrum of colors.

The scientists are now exploring the mechanism behind the natural formation of these color-generating structures, as current technology is unable to synthesize structures of this size.

“The ultimate aim of research in this field is to figure out how the weevil self-assembles these structures, because with our current technology we are unable to do so,” said Dr. Saranathan.

“The ability to produce these structures, which are able to provide a high color fidelity regardless of the angle you view it from, will have applications in any industry which deals with color production,” he explained.

“We can use these structures in cosmetics and other pigmentations to ensure high-fidelity hues, or in digital displays in your phone or tablet which will allow you to view it from any angle and see the same true image without any color distortion,” he said.

Saranathan and Wilts determined that the scales were composed of a three-dimensional crystalline structure made from chitin, the main ingredient in insect exoskeletons.

They found that the structure and volume of chitin in the exoskeleton of rainbow weevils allow the insects to produce a broad spectrum of colors.

The rainbow colors on this weevil’s scales are determined by two factors: the size of the crystal structure which makes up each scale, and the volume of chitin used to make up the crystal structure.

Larger scales have a larger crystalline structure and use a larger volume of chitin to reflect red light; smaller scales have a smaller crystalline structure and use a smaller volume of chitin to reflect blue light.

Yale-NUS College Assistant Professor of Life Science Dr. Vinodkumar Saranathan led the rainbow weevil study. September 2018 (Screengrab from video Yale-NUS)

Yale-NUS College Assistant Professor of Life Science Dr. Vinodkumar Saranathan led the rainbow weevil study. September 2018 (Screengrab from video Yale-NUS)

Dr. Saranathan, who has previously examined over 100 species of insects and spiders and catalogued their color-generation mechanisms, says this ability to simultaneously control both size and volume factors to fine-tune the color produced has never before been shown in insects, and given its complexity, is quite remarkable.

He explained, “It is different from the usual strategy employed by nature to produce various different hues on the same animal, where the chitin structures are of fixed size and volume, and different colors are generated by orienting the structure at different angles, which reflects different wavelengths of light.”

“Uncovering the precise mechanism of color tuning employed by this weevil has important implications for further structural and developmental research on biophotonic nanostructures,” the scientists write in their paper.

The study is published in the journal “Small,” a weekly peer-reviewed scientific journal covering nanotechnology.

Dr. Bodo Wilts from the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg with two other participants in the Living Light conference at Cambridge University, UK, April 2018 (Photo courtesy Moller Centre, Cambridge University via Twitter feed of Dr. Wilts)

Dr. Bodo Wilts from the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg with two other participants in the Living Light conference at Cambridge University, UK, April 2018 (Photo courtesy Moller Centre, Cambridge University via Twitter feed of Dr. Wilts)

Bodo D. Wilts et al, A Literal Elytral Rainbow: Tunable Structural Colors Using Single Diamond Biophotonic Crystals in Pachyrrhynchus congestus Weevils, Small (2018). DOI: 10.1002/smll.201802328

The research was partly supported though the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research “Bio-Inspired Materials” and the Ambizione program of the Swiss National Science Foundation to Dr. Wilts, and partly through a UK Royal Society Newton Fellowship, a Linacre College EPA Cephalosporin Junior Research Fellowship, and Yale-NUS College funds to Dr. Saranathan.

Featured Image: The rainbow weevil has distinctive colored spots on its body made up of nearly-circular scales arranged in concentric rings of different hues. (Photo courtesy National University of Singapore) Posted for media use.


Biodefense as Synthetic Biology Comes of Age

Scientists Sebastian Palluk and Daniel Arlow in their synthetic biology lab at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute, June 18, 2018 (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy) Public domain

Scientists Sebastian Palluk and Daniel Arlow in their synthetic biology lab at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute, June 18, 2018 (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, June 19, 2018 (  News) – Synthetic biology expands the possibilities for creating new weapons, such as making existing bacteria and viruses more harmful, while shortening the time needed to engineer them, warns a new report by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense, the study examines synthetic biology, which creates technologies for engineering or creating organisms. It assesses the levels of concern warranted for such developments and recommends options to anticipate and respond to these threats.

Synthetic biology gives scientists unprecedented control of living cells at the genetic level.

Beneficial applications include treating diseases with new types of medicine, improving agricultural yields with disease-resistant plants, and remediating pollution, but it is possible to conceive of harmful uses.

Although some malicious applications of synthetic biology may not seem plausible right now, they could become achievable with future advances in understanding and technology, the report finds. These include modifying the properties of existing microorganisms, using microorganisms to produce chemicals, or employing novel or unexpected strategies to cause harm.

To better prepare for potential misuse, the National Academies were asked by the Department of Defense to develop a framework for evaluating security concerns related to advances in synthetic biology.

“In and of itself, synthetic biology is not harmful. The level of concern depends on the specific applications or capabilities that it may enable,” said Michael Imperiale, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan and chair of the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report.

“The U.S. government should pay close attention to this rapidly progressing field, just as it did to advances in chemistry and physics during the Cold War era,” he said.

The committee proposed a strategic framework to identify and prioritize potential areas of concern. The framework is designed for analyzing existing biotechnology tools to evaluate the present dangers, understanding how various technologies compare with and complement each other, and assessing the implications of new experimental outcomes.

Using this framework, the study ranks synbio concerns from highest to lowest:

  • Highest Concern
  • Re-creating known pathogenic viruses
  • Making biochemicals via in situ synthesis
  • Making exisitng bacteria more dangerous
  • High Concern
  • Making existing viruses more dangerous
  • Manufacturing chemicals or biochemicals by exploriting natural metabolic pathways
  • Medium Concern
  • Manufacturing chemicals or biochemicals by creating novel metabolic pathways
  • Modifying the human microbiome
  • Modifying the human immune system
  • Modifying the human genome
  • Lowest Concern
  • Re-creating known pathogenic bacteria
  • Creating new pathogens
  • Modifying the human genome using human gene drives

The ranking is based on the availability and ease of use of the technologies, the challenges of producing an effective weapon, the expertise and resources required to carry out an attack, and both proactive and reactive measures that might be taken to help mitigate the effects of an attack.

“In the past, most biosecurity and biosafety policies were based on sample containment. Now, it’s so easy to read DNA sequences, for example, or to make DNA molecules out of sequences publicly available from bioinformatics databases. Most projects have a cyber dimension, and that introduces a new category of risk,” says Colorado State University’s Jean Peccoud, Abell Chair of Synthetic Biology and professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

While not associated with the National Academies’ study, Peccoud is lead author on a paper in the journal “Trends in Biotechnology,” published online December 7, 2017, that urges awareness of “cyberbiosecurity” risks for researchers, government and industry.

Peccoud is a synthetic and computational biologist who specializes in the design of new DNA molecules. He has led trainings for federal government agencies interested in increasing security around life sciences infrastructure, and has helped assess the state of the nation’s biodefense infrastructure.

The report emphasizes that many of the traditional approaches of biological and chemical defense will be relevant to synthetic biology-enabled threats, but the field will also present new challenges.

Kevin Esvelt, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, where he leads the Sculpting Evolution Group in exploring evolutionary and ecological engineering, helped pioneer the development of CRISPR, a powerful new gene-editing technology.

Inventor of a synthetic microbial ecosystem to rapidly evolve useful biomolecules, Esvelt has been sending out synbio warnings for years, although he is not involved in the National Academies’ report.

In 2014, Esvelt and his colleagues were first to suggest that CRISPR could be used to create a gene drive, a tool that can be used to override natural gene selection during reproduction to ensure that a desired trait is passed down throughout generations.

Using gene drives, scientists could potentially alter the entire population of a species.

Now Esvelt worries that a lab might release a genetically modified species that reshapes the natural world as we know it today. And he worries that there’s nothing in the scientific community’s system of regulation that would prevent that.

Unless the research involves humans, gene drive work contained within the lab is not subject to much regulatory scrutiny.

The current system, Esvelt warns, is outmoded and “too risky.”

The National Academies report concludes that since synthetic biology-enabled weapons might be unpredictable and hard to monitor or detect, the U.S. Department of Defense should consider evaluating how the public health infrastructure needs to be strengthened to adequately recognize a potential attack.

“It’s impossible to predict when specific enabling developments will occur,” said committee chair Imperiale. “The timelines would depend on commercial developments as well as academic research, and even converging technologies that may come from outside this field.”

“So it is important to continue monitoring advances in synthetic biology and other technologies that may affect current bottlenecks and barriers,” he said, “opening up more possibilities.”

Featured Image: Researchers used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology to correct a mutation, resulting in dystrophin restoration in Duchenne muscular dystrophy muscle cells, a beneficial use of synthetic biology. February 22, 2018 (Photo by Courtney Young, M.S., Melissa Spencer lab, University of California, Los Angeles) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Snakes Inspire New Class of Crawler Bots

Kirigami cutting has produced skin that a robot can use to propel itself along. (Image by Ahmad Rafsanjani/Harvard SEAS) Posted for media use

Kirigami cutting has produced skin that a robot can use to propel itself along. (Image by Ahmad Rafsanjani/Harvard SEAS) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, February 22, 2018 ( News) – Harvard researchers have developed a robot modeled on snakeskin with soft robotic scales made using kirigami – an ancient Japanese paper craft that relies on cuts to change the properties of a material.

As the robot stretches, the flat kirigami surface is transformed into a 3D-textured surface, which grips like snakeskin and crawls along.

“These all-terrain soft robots could one day travel across difficult environments for exploration, inspection, monitoring and search and rescue missions or perform complex, laparoscopic medical procedures,” envisions the paper’s senior author, Dr. Katia Bertoldi, a professor of applied mechanics at Harvard University.

Bertoldi, who is a new associate faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, says this form of snake-inspired locomotion is something brand new. The ancient art of kirigami is inspiring a new class of materials.

“We believe that our kirigami-based strategy opens avenues for the design of a new class of soft crawlers,” Bertoldi said.

“It turns out that figuring out how structures can deform, fold, interact with light, and absorb energy has applications in a variety of fields, and it’s been exciting to see our lab’s work contribute to such a diverse array of advances,” she said.

The key to this new class of crawlers is in the shape and function of the scales of a snake’s skin.

As a snake moves, its scales grip the ground, propelling its body forward. Called friction-assisted locomotion, this type of movement is possible because of the shape and positioning of snake scales.

Now, a team of researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has developed a soft robot that uses the same principles of locomotion as a snake to crawl without any rigid components.

“There has been a lot of research in recent years into how to fabricate these kinds of morphable, stretchable structures,” says Ahmad Rafsanjani, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the paper, published Wednesday in the journal “Science Robotics.”

“We have shown that kirigami principles can be integrated into soft robots to achieve locomotion in a way that is simpler, faster and cheaper than most previous techniques,” Rafsanjani said.

Kirigami, from the Japanese word kiri, meaning “cut,” and kami, meaning “paper,” is a variation of origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

The researchers started with a simple, flat plastic sheet. Using a laser cutter, they embedded an array of centimeter-scale cuts, of different shapes and sizes.

The team experimented with various-shaped cuts, including triangular, circular and trapezoidal. They found that trapezoidal cuts, which most closely resemble the shape of snake scales, give the robot a longer stride.

Once cut, the researchers wrapped the sheet around a tube-like elastomer actuator, which expands and contracts with air like a balloon.

When the actuator expands, the kirigami cuts pop out, forming a rough surface that grips the ground. When the actuator deflates, the cuts fold flat, propelling the crawler forward.

The researchers built a fully untethered robot with these capabilities. It has integrated on-board control, sensing, actuation and power supply packed into a tiny tail.

They tested the soft robot by letting it crawl on the Harvard’s campus. See a video of the robot’s test crawl at Harvard.

“We show that the locomotive properties of these kirigami-skins can be harnessed by properly balancing the cut geometry and the actuation protocol,” said Rafsanjani. “Moving forward, these components can be further optimized to improve the response of the system.”

This research was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Citation: “Kirigami skins make a simple soft actuator crawl,” By Ahmad Rafsanjani, Yuerou Zhang, Bangyuan Liu, Shmuel M. Rubinstein and Katia Bertoldi. Science Robotics 21 Feb 2018: Vol. 3, Issue 15, eaar7555

Waste Mgt

Hi-tech Plastic Trees Generate Power

Diagram of how an energy tree will function. (Graphic courtesy Solar Botanic)

Diagram of how an energy tree will function. (Graphic courtesy Solar Botanic)


By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, August 8, 20127 ( News) – Clean tech meets art meets life in a new energy tree with nanoleaves that absorb sunlight and quiver in the breeze to produce solar and wind power. A natural-looking, energy generator that looks like a real tree, the emerging new technology could completely change how homes are powered.

The energy tree stands 16 foot (4.87 meter) tall and can generate nearly three times the electricity an average family uses in a year.

A typical three bedroom house in the UK uses 3,300 kilowatt hrs of energy a year, according to The Carbon Trust and National Energy Agency. The energy tree can generate at least 12,000 kilowatt hours a year, its creators say.

They estimate that each tree would cost about £15,000, with the leaves themselves at less than £3 each.

Design and engineering students at Brunel University London have developed the tree concept and tested the e-leaves prototype for the London-based renewable energy start-up, Solar Botanic.

“We wanted the leaves to look like leaves, so we used a green plasma coated solar cell,” said Dr. Zahir Dehouche, a sustainable energy specialist at Brunel University London.

“The idea is for people to see a leaf. It’s very attractive, an art installation almost that combines design and an energy system,” Dr. Dehouche said.

Inspired by photosynthesis, the energy tree copies the Earth’s natural aesthetics to create a beautiful complement to modern surroundings. The technology is based on biomimicry, an approach that seeks sustainable solutions that emulate natural functions.

The energy tree’s nanoleaves are made of a thin sunlight-activated photovoltaic film, covered in a protective green layer flexible enough to shimmer in the breeze.

The branches, twigs and leafstalks carry high-resistance piezoelectric ribbons that harvest kinetic energy as they move, so sunlight, raindrops and wind all create energy as they come in contact with the tree.

Once produced, the electricity travels down a trunk made of high-strength recycled polymers and synthetic resin.

It works as a giant solar panel and wind turbine, so the stronger the sun and the windier the day, the more power it produces.

The combination of nanoleaves and piezoelectric ribbons ensures a harvest of electricity throughout the seasons – rain or shine.

The idea has been gestating for 15 years in the mind of Solar Botanic owner Alex van der Beek. While on a train ride to visit his sister in the Netherlands in 2002, where wind turbines mark scenic views, van der Beek thought that electricity could be generated by something more beautiful, a fake tree, he told “Scientific American” in 2009.

Van der Beek founded Solar Botanic, Ltd., in London in 2008 based on the concept of an energy tree that combines three different technologies that can generate electricity – photovoltaics, or solar power, electricity from visible sunlight; thermoelectrics, electricity from heat; and piezoelectrics, electricity from pressure – all in the shape of a leaf on a  stem.

When thousands of these units, which he calls nanoleaves, are placed on a natural-looking plastic tree, electricity can be produced without spoiling natural landscapes, van der Beek says.

Solar Botanic aims to start building its first full-scale tree at the end of this year.

Plans call for electricity generated by the energy trees to go directly into homes through underground cables. Excess power can be stored in batteries and sold to the national grid.

The tree’s recyclable trunk can be fitted with street lights, or packed with generators to charge electric cars, mobile phones or robots.

Van der Beek envisions forests of energy trees. With the proper installation, a group of trees could power a neighborhood.

Planted next to newly built homes, energy trees could raise property values by 20 percent by removing the need for heavy solar panels, says Dr. Dehouche.

In developing countries, which often have brighter sunlight than shines on London, the trees would be extra efficient, helping to supply power as demand spikes.

The team sees the sturdy, organic-looking structures as enhancing high streets, sea fronts and business parks.

“The tree is a sculpture that invites people to connect with renewable energy,” said Elise Hounslow, a Brunel University design and industrial technology graduate.

“It shows green energy doesn’t have to be ugly or intrusive,” she said, “it can be beautiful and make us feel positive about changing our ways for a brighter future.”

Featured Image: Energy trees could look like this real tree. (Photo courtesy Solar Botanic)


Mimicking Nature to Defeat Climate Change

The free Cool Down B'More bus takes potentially overheated Baltimore residents to cooling centers. (Screengrab from video by Mimi Yang)

The free Cool Down B’More bus takes potentially overheated Baltimore residents to cooling centers. (Screengrab from video by Mimi Yang)

ATLANTA, Georgia, July 20, 2017 ( News) – Five teams of entrepreneurs from around the world have been chosen to participate in the newest cohort of the world’s only business accelerator program dedicated to bringing nature-inspired solutions to market.

These five winning solutions were selected from nearly 100 entries from 28 countries. All the teams entered the 2017 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, answering the call to apply biomimicry, nature-inspired design, to develop solutions to reverse or adapt to climate change.

A team from Mexico City has created Thermosmart, an approach that mimics the circulatory systems of elephants and alligators to boost efficiency in the heating and cooling of high-rise commercial buildings.

Another team from Bogotá, Colombia has invented Cooltiva, a system that takes advantage of the wind and the sun to regulate temperatures inside city residences using minimal energy.

A third team from Baltimore, Maryland has created Cool Down B’More, a network that connects low-income communities to designated cool spaces via an affordable transportation system. They did it by emulating the mechanisms of blue crab and bay grass and their mutual relationship within the ecosystem of Chesapeake Bay, on the U.S. Atlantic coast.

A fourth team from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has used winged seeds, bromeliads and forest leaf litter as the inspiration for Nucleário, a reforestation solution designed for remote and hard-to-reach areas of the Atlantic rain forest.

And a fifth team from Taipei, Taiwan looked to the ways that living organisms like baleen whales and African violet leaves collect micro particles to create Refish, a device that can be attached to vehicles to collect fine particulate matter right on the road without the need for electricity and motors to pump air as used in conventional air purifiers.

The winning teams will receive a cash prize and an invitation to enter the 2017-18 Biomimicry Accelerator, where they will spend the next year working with biomimicry and business mentors to prototype and test their designs.

The Biomimicry Accelerator experience culminates in the $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation Ray of Hope Prize.

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is an annual competition that asks teams of students and professionals to address critical global issues with nature-inspired solutions. The challenge is hosted by the Biomimicry Institute , in partnership with the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation has pledged $1.5 million over four years to support the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, a multi-year effort to crowdsource, support, and seed promising innovations inspired by nature.

Each year, the Institute and Foundation award the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize to the most viable prototype that embodies the radical sustainability principles of biomimicry.

The winning team will demonstrate the most viable biomimetic solution, including a functioning prototype, a tested business model, and customer validation.

The Ray of Hope Prize honors the legacy of Interface Founder and Chairman Ray Anderson, who funded the foundation upon his passing in 2011. Anderson was inspired by new approaches to centuries-old design and manufacturing techniques, and used them in his $1 billion, global carpet tile company. Anderson was known for his progressive policies on industrial ecology and sustainability.

There is also a student category in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge that offers cash prizes.

In the student category, the first-place winner is a team from California Polytechnic State University who designed a plant-inspired system that can be applied along freeways and main streets to capture and scrub carbon.

The second-place student team, from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, created a compostable patch that generates electricity by absorbing heat, inspired by the structure of the silk moth cocoon.

The third place winner in the student category is a team with members from the National Technical University of Athens, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and the Technical University of Crete who emulated coral calcification to create a design that sequesters carbon dioxide from the sea.

“Accelerating the path from idea to prototype to marketplace is our goal,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. “And we are excited about the potential for this new cohort to demonstrate viable and innovative solutions to our climate crisis.”

The goal is to show how biomimicry, one of “Fortune” magazine’s five business “Trends to ride in 2017,” can provide viable solutions to the current climate crisis.

Biomimicry Institute Executive Director Beth Rattner said, “This is what our Ray C. Anderson Foundation partnership makes possible, bringing these teams’ ideas from concept to functioning prototypes that are ready for field testing.”

A new round of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge will open in October 2017, also focused on climate change solutions. This will be another opportunity for teams to join and compete for the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize. Individuals and teams can learn more about the challenge at

Videos from each of the five winning teams are found on


Featured Images: Elephant in South Africa’s Sibuya Game Reserve, 2010. In hot conditions, elephants increase blood flow to the skin, creating areas that dissipate heat. (Photo by Jon Mountjoy) Creative commons license via Flickr

Biotech Explosion Could ‘Overwhelm’ Regulators


Caption: BioSteel™ Goats have been genetically modified to produce the protein from Golden Orb Weaver Spider (Nephila clavipes) silk in their milk. This means that the gene that codes for protein that spiders use for their silk was transferred through laboratory techniques into the goats’ genome, creating a transgenic organism. (Photo by Center for Post-Natural History)

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, March 23, 2017 ( News) – Human organs-on-chips, implantable biosensors, cowless meat made by culturing animal cells, plastics grown by plants for industrial use, organisms that recycle metals – these are just a few of the genetically engineered products now under development in labs across the United States.

Scientists are creating so many biotechnology products that are expected to come to market over the next five to 10 years, that their number and diversity could “overwhelm the U.S. regulatory system,” warns a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Engineered animals, plants, insects and microbes designed to live in the environment with little or no human management are likely to be more common, advised the 12-member committee of scientists and attorneys who conducted the study and wrote the report, “Preparing for Future Products of Biotechnology.

The rate at which biotechnology products are introduced – and the types of products – are expected to significantly increase in the next five to 10 years, and federal agencies need to prepare for this growth,” said committee chair Richard Murray, a bioengineering professor at the California Institute of Technology.

< Watch a video of Dr. Richard Murray explaining the three main messages of this report here.

During a March 9 webinar announcing the report, Murray said an explosion in new biotech products over the next decade could overwhelm federal regulators.

These federal agencies are headed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture (FDA), the three agencies that sponsored the report.

The U.S. biotechnology economy is growing rapidly, with the scale, scope, and complexity of products increasing. More types of organisms will likely be engineered, the report says, and the kinds of traits introduced with biotechnology will increase.

Animals revived from extinction, landmine-detecting mice, bioluminescent trees to be used as streetlights, ever-blooming plants, and microbes designed for bioremediation are on the horizon, as well as synthetic organisms such as DNA barcodes to track products – the report lists these bioengineered products of the future, and many more, as designed for open release into the environment.

Biotechnology products on the horizon could generate substantial public debate, the report observes. Many members of society have concerns over the safety and ethics of various biotechnologies, while others see prospects for biotechnology addressing social or environmental problems.

The U.S. regulatory system will need to achieve a balance among competing interests, risks, and benefits when considering how to manage development and use of new biotech products, the panel advises.

In addition, more research may be needed to develop methods for governance systems that integrate ethical, cultural, and social implications into risk assessments in ways that are meaningful.

This may not be feasible or even justified for all new biotechnology products – such as products the public is already familiar with or products that will not be released into the environment.

For example, genetically engineered organisms used in the research lab to develop new chemical synthesis methods are not likely to require the same level of public dialogue as products that have more uncertainty associated with them, such as organisms with gene drives, which enhance organisms’ ability to pass certain genetic traits on to their offspring.

Many bioengineered products designed for containment, not open release into the environment, are already on the market. Existing products include:

  • Transgenic lab animals such as mice, rats, dogs and mini-swine
  • Genetically engineered salmon grown in land-based facilities
  • Industrial enzymes
  • Biobased chemicals to replace fossil fuel feedstocks
  • Bioluminescent microbes for home and landscape uses Yeast-drived molecules to create food products: vanillin, stevia, saffron, egg whites, milk protein, gelatin
  • One bioengineered product line that could revolutionize drug development, disease modeling and personalized medicine are microchips lined by living human cells called “organs-on-chips.”

Wyss Institute researchers at Harvard University, and their collaborators, report that they have engineered microchips that “recapitulate the microarchitecture and functions of living human organs, including the lung, intestine, kidney, skin, bone marrow and blood-brain barrier.

These microchips, called “organs-on-chips,” offer a potential alternative to traditional animal testing.

Each individual organ-on-chip is composed of a clear flexible polymer about the size of a computer memory stick that contains hollow microfluidic channels.

These channels are lined by living human cells interfaced with a human endothelial cell-lined artificial vasculature, the researchers explain.

Mechanical forces can be applied to mimic the physical microenvironment of living organs, including breathing motions in lung and peristalsis-like deformations in the intestine.

Because the microdevices are translucent, they provide a window into the inner workings of human organs, the researchers explain.

Overall, the federal government should develop a strategy that scans the horizon for new biotechnology products, identifying and prioritizing those products that are less familiar or that present a need for more complex risk analysis, the Murray panel recommends in its report.

The federal government should work to establish appropriate federal funding levels for sustained, multiyear research to develop the necessary advances in regulatory science.

The panel concludes that to this end, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and other agencies that fund biotechnology research should increase their investments in regulatory science.

But President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint issued earlier this month falls short on funding for biotechnology research says Kenneth Lisaius, spokesman for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the world’s largest biotechnology trade association.

While we are still reviewing today’s budget blueprint, we have initial concerns with the proposed reductions in the budgets for biomedical research, public health, and for agencies that play an important role in promoting innovations in agricultural, environmental, and human health,” said Lisaius.

The day following the election of Trump as President, a survey of leaders in biotechnology in the United States, conducted by “Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News” showed they thought Trump’s presidency would negatively impact National Institutes of Health research funding and science-technology-engineering-mathematics education.

Over 1,600 professionals, from industry and academia, responded to the survey.

A 46.78 percent plurality said a Trump presidency would spark a “brain drain” as foreign-born researchers educated in American universities would be more likely to leave.

The biotechnology industry faces the possibility of a brain drain, and this is most alarming,” said Mary Ann Liebert, founder and CEO of the 35 year old publication.

The National Academy of Sciences report says that current staffing levels, expertise, and resources available at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture and other regulatory agencies may not be sufficient to address the expected scope and scale of future biotechnology products.

It is “critical,” the panel said, that the agencies involved in regulation develop and maintain scientific capabilities, tools, and expertise in key evolving areas.

These areas include understanding relationships between intended genetic changes and an organism’s observable traits, the unintended effects of genetic changes on target and non-target organisms, predicting and monitoring ecosystem responses, and quantifying the economic and social costs and benefits of biotechnologies.

In addition to adequate funding for the regulatory agencies, there is the issue of their legal authority to regulate biotech products.

Even when existing laws do allow agencies to regulate these products, the current statutes may not equip them with the tools to do so effectively, the panel warned.

The statutes may not empower regulators to require product sponsors to share in the burden of generating information about product safety. The laws may place the burden of proof on regulators to demonstrate that a product is unsafe before they can take action to protect the public.

The report states, “This implies that adequate federal support for research will be crucial to protect consumer and occupational safety and the environment.

Murray said, “We hope this report will support agency efforts to effectively evaluate these future products in ways that ensure public safety, protect the environment, build public confidence, and support innovation.

Featured image: This juvenile Hawaiian Bobtail squid demonstrates the symbiosis between Hawaiian bobtail squid, <i> Euprymna scolopes</i>, and the bioluminescent bacterium, <i>Vibrio fischeri</i>. The squid has complex external and internal organs that separate Vibrio fischeri from ocean water and position the bacterium throughout its body. Hawaiian Bobtails are nocturnal, and the bioluminescent bacterium disguise the squids from predators by mimicking the soft glow of starlight. (Photo by Macroscopic Solutions) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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BioNurse: Generating Spaces for Life


Yareta plants live in the high altitude of the Andes Mountains. Some are estimated at 3,000 years old. (Photo by Pedro Szekely) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

by Sunny Lewis

MISSOULA, Montana, December 1, 2016 ( News) – A team from the Ceres Regional Center for Fruit and Vegetable Innovation in Chile has won the first-ever $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation “Ray of Hope” Prize in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge .

The BioNurse team from Quillota, Chile created the BioPatch, a biomimicry solution that enhances soil’s capacity to retain water, nutrients, and microorganisms so that degraded land is restored for the next generation of crops.

At least 25 percent of the world’s soil is degraded, and the winning concept provides a new way to protect seedlings and restore soils to health, with inspiration from natural plant processes.

The BioNurse team was inspired by the way that hardy “nurse” plants like the yareta, ancient flowering plants in the high altitudes of Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, establish themselves in degraded soils and pave the way for new plant species to grow.

Many yaretas are estimated to be over 3,000 years old.

By mimicking biological principles, the BioNurse team’s design innovation provides a way to grow and protect new plants and ensure that the soil can be regenerated to feed the world’s burgeoning population.

The judges were impressed with the way that the BioNurse team utilized biomimicry on multiple levels,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. “Moreover, we believe in their potential to commercialize and scale the concept to achieve a significant impact in areas of the world where farming is limited due to poor soil.”

Ray C. Anderson (1934-2011), a Georgia native, was recognized as a leader in green business when he challenged his carpet company, Atlanta-based Interface, Inc., to reimagine itself as a sustainable company with a zero environmental footprint. His foundation funds projects that advance knowledge and innovation around environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Team BioNurse’s winning project aims to establish a first step that changes the course of the current “geomimetic agriculture” to a “biomimetic agriculture.”

Their design proposes a change in the fundamentals of agricultural food production, heading towards increasing soil health and vitality.

The team says their biomimetic method “emulates nurse plants in biologic communities.”

The physical, chemical and biological fertility concentration of their soil “comes from a continuous formation of a vivifying mass which transforms, recycles, composes and decomposes the organic matter and mineral elements, fluffing the ground to make it a real sponge, light and soft, rich in spaces for developing life.

The biomimetic method stands in contrast to the way that humans have opened and plowed the land throughout history, causing cracks and breaks in the soil.

This geomimetic system has taken a lot of fertility, energy and minerals from the soil, which in turn has released huge amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

The team’s biomimicry starts with a device they have called BioNurse, made of a biodegradable container and the appropriate biologic contents for each site.

The container is fabricated from corn stalks, utilizing a resource that otherwise would be burned as waste. It biodegrades after one season.

The team has demonstrated that the plants growing within the container will be capable of reproducing the same conditions in a natural way and, after one year, the soil will be productive again.


BioNurse Team members: front row: Camila Hernández, Camila Gratacos, back row from left: Nicolas Orellana, Victor Vicencio, Jean François Casal, Carlo Sabaini, Eduardo Gratacos (Photo courtesy Biomimicry Global Design Challenge) posted for media use.

The seven BioNurse Team members are: Camila Hernández, Camila Gratacos, Nicolas Orellana, Victor Vicencio, Jean François Casal, Carlo Sabaini, Eduardo Gratacos

The team had three objectives:

  • Restore degraded soils by carrying: biologically available energy, a high and diverse microbiological load, plants with rhizospheres rich in mycorrhizae, and detritus generators.
  • Create growing levels of food plants’ community structure with increased complexity and local biodiversity,
  • Improve the capacity of moisture retention and accumulation of energy and minerals available to be cycled.

Two principles — seeking harmony with nature and leveraging the power of business — are at the core of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge and the work of the Biomimicry Institute based in Missoula.

The Institute aims to “naturalize biomimicry in the culture by promoting the transfer of ideas, designs, and strategies from biology to sustainable human systems design.

A new round of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge has just launched, which offers another opportunity for teams to join and compete for the annual $100,000 “Ray of Hope” Prize.

The philanthropists at the heart of the Biomimicry Design Challenge take their inspiration from environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and author Paul Hawken, who said, “Biomimicry directs us to where we need to go in every aspect in human endeavor.

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 Featured image: Green Patch III – Yareta plants. (Photo by Magnus von Koeller) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Bionic Leaf Makes Liquid Fuel From Sunlight


Harvard professor Daniel Nocera (Photo by Kris Krüg) Creative Commons license via Flickr

by Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, September 8, 2016 ( News) – Scientists at Harvard have developed a technology that mimics the way leaves produce energy from sunlight, water and air.

A device about the size of a credit card, the “bionic leaf” includes a solar panel. When placed in water, it uses energy from sunlight to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen, just like a real plant does during photosynthesis.

The device uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels. It’s a kind of living battery, which the scientists call a bionic leaf for its melding of biology and technology.

The system can convert solar energy to biomass with 10 percent efficiency, far above the one percent seen in the fastest-growing plants.

Chemist Daniel Nocera, a professor of energy at Harvard University, and Pamela Silver, a professor of biochemistry and systems biology at Harvard Medical School, have co-created the new system.

This is a true artificial photosynthesis system,” Nocera said. “Before, people were using artificial photosynthesis for water-splitting, but this is a true A-to-Z system, and we’ve gone well over the efficiency of photosynthesis in nature.

While the study shows the system can be used to generate usable fuels, its potential does not end there, said Silver.

The beauty of biology is it’s the world’s greatest chemist – biology can do chemistry we can’t do easily,” she said. “In principle, we have a platform that can make any downstream carbon-based molecule. So this has the potential to be incredibly versatile.”


Pamela Silver, a professor of biochemistry and systems biology at Harvard Medical School (Photo by Rose Lincoln, Harvard)

Nicknamed the “Bionic Leaf 2.0,” the new system builds on earlier work by Nocera, Silver, and others. Though capable of using solar energy to make isopropanol, that work was imperfect.

First, Nocera said, the catalyst used to produce hydrogen – a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy – also created reactive oxygen species, molecules that attacked and destroyed the bacteria’s DNA.

To avoid that, researchers were forced to run the system at abnormally high voltages, reducing its efficiency.

 “For this paper, we designed a new cobalt-phosphorous alloy catalyst, which we showed does not make reactive oxygen species,” Nocera said. “That allowed us to lower the voltage, and that led to a dramatic increase in efficiency.

I don’t know why yet,” said Nocera. “That will be fun to figure out.

With this new catalyst in the bionic leaf, the team boosted version 2.0’s efficiency at producing alcohol fuels like isopropanol and isobutanol to roughly 10 percent.

For every kilowatt-hour of electricity used the microbes could scrub 130 grams of carbon dioxide out of 230,000 liters of air to make 60 grams of isopropanol fuel. That is better than the efficiency of natural photosynthesis at converting water, sunlight and air into stored energy.

This is the genius of Dan,” Silver said. “These catalysts are totally biologically compatible.”

 Researchers also used the system to create PHB, a bio-plastic precursor, a process first demonstrated by Professor Anthony Sinskey of MIT.

There may yet be room for additional increases in efficiency, but Nocera said the system is already effective enough to consider potential commercial uses for the new technology.

It’s an important discovery – it says we can do better than photosynthesis,” Nocera said. “But I also want to bring this technology to the developing world as well.”

Working in conjunction with the First 100 Watts program at Harvard, which helped fund the research, Nocera hopes to continue developing the technology and its applications in nations like India, with the help of their scientists.

In many ways, Nocera said, the new system marks the fulfillment of the promise of his earlier “artificial leaf,” which used solar power to split water and make hydrogen fuel.

If you think about it, photosynthesis is amazing,” he said. “It takes sunlight, water, and air – and then look at a tree. That’s exactly what we did, but we do it significantly better, because we turn all that energy into a fuel.

This research was supported by the Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The Harvard University Climate Change Solutions Fund  is supporting ongoing research into the bionic leaf platform.

Featured Image: The tiny bionic leaf can turn sunlight, water and air into liquid fuel. (Screengrab from video by Harvard University)

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Vitamin B2 Inspires Batteries for Solar, Wind


By using modified vitamin B2 molecules, researchers have created a rechargeable flow battery that could help solve large-scale electricity storage problems (Photo by Kaixiang Lin / Harvard University) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, August 4, 2016 ( News) –  Harvard scientists have identified a new class of high-performing organic molecules, inspired by vitamin B2, that can safely store electricity from intermittent energy sources like solar and wind power in large batteries.

The team has developed a “high-capacity flow battery” that stores energy in organic molecules called quinones and in the food additive ferrocyanide.

 To accomplish this, the Harvard team replaced metal ions used as conventional battery electrolyte materials with quinones, molecules that store energy in plants and animals.

Now, after considering about a million different quinones, we have developed a new class of battery electrolyte material that expands the possibilities of what we can do,” said Kaixiang Lin, a Ph.D. student in chemistry at Harvard and first author of the paper.

 That advance was a game-changer, and the Harvard team now is delivering what they call “the first high-performance, non-flammable, non-toxic, non-corrosive, low-cost chemicals that could enable large-scale, inexpensive electricity storage.

Its simple synthesis means it should be manufacturable on a large scale at a very low cost, which is an important goal of this project,” said Lin, a chemistry graduate student.

Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, is one of eight B vitamins. All the B vitamins help the body to convert carbohydrates in food into fuel in the form of glucose, which is used to produce energy, and metabolize fats and protein.

The key difference between B2 and quinones is that nitrogen atoms, instead of oxygen atoms, are involved in picking up and giving off electrons.

With only a couple of tweaks to the original B2 molecule, this new group of molecules becomes a good candidate for alkaline flow batteries,” said Dr. Michael Aziz, a Harvard professor of materials science.

Lin explained, “They have high stability and solubility and provide high battery voltage and storage capacity. Because vitamins are remarkably easy to make, this molecule could be manufactured on a large scale at a very low cost.

 “We designed these molecules to suit the needs of our battery, but really it was nature that hinted at this way to store energy,” said Dr. Roy Gordon, co-senior author of the paper and a Harvard professor of chemistry and materials science. “Nature came up with similar molecules that are very important in storing energy in our bodies.

The team will continue to explore quinones, as well as this new universe of molecules, in pursuit of a high-performing, long-lasting and inexpensive flow battery.

Harvard’s Office of Technology Development has been working with the research team to navigate the shifting complexities of the energy storage market and build relationships with companies well positioned to commercialize the new chemistries.

The ability to inexpensively store large amounts of electrical energy is of increasing importance, with the growing fraction of electric generation from intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar, the study’s authors recognize.

As this fraction increases, problems associated with the mismatch between power supply from wind and solar and grid demand become more severe, they say.

While the versatile quinones show great promise for organic flow batteries, the Harvard researchers continue to explore other organic molecules in pursuit of even better performance.

The work was partly funded by a Department of Energy ARPA-E award, the National Science Foundation and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center and funded in part through the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The research also was supported by the Odyssey Cluster and Research Computing of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Theoretical work was funded in part through the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, which is supported by the National Science Foundation.

 Süleyman Er performed work as part of the Fellowships for Young Energy Scientists program of the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter, which is part of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

The new research is published in the journal “Nature Energy“.

Featured image : Dr, Michael Azia is the Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at Harvard, he is a participant in the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, a faculty associate, Center for Nanoscale Systems, and a faculty associate, Harvard University Center for the Environment (Photo courtesy Harvard University) Posted for media use.

New Bioglass Can Re-Grow, Replace Cartilage


Professor Julian Jones, one of the developers of the bio-glass, in his lab at the Department of Materials at Imperial College London (Photo courtesy Imperial College London)

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, May 17, 2016 ( News) – Scientists have developed a new material that can mimic cartilage and potentially encourage it to re-grow.

Cartilage is the flexible connective tissue found in joints and between vertebrae in the spine. Compared to other types of connective tissue, it is tough to repair.

 Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Milano-Bicocca have developed a bioglass material that mimics the shock-absorbing and load bearing qualities of real cartilage.

They are now hoping to use it to develop implants for replacing damaged cartilage discs between vertebrae.

They believe it also has the potential to encourage cartilage cells to grow in knees, which has not been possible with the methods in use today.

The new material also could help the millions who suffer from arthritis. The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, involves wear-and-tear damage to cartilage — the hard, slick coating on the ends of bones.

“Bioglass has been around since the 1960s, originally developed around the time of the Vietnam War to help heal bones of veterans, which were damaged in conflict. Our research shows that a new flexible version of this material could be used as cartilage-like material,” said Professor Julian Jones, one of the developers of the bioglass from the Department of Materials at Imperial.

“Patients will readily attest to loss of mobility that is associated with degraded cartilage and the lengths they will go to try and alleviate often excruciating pain,” said Jones

“We still have a long way to go before this technology reaches patients,” he said, “but we’ve made some important steps in the right direction to move this technology towards the marketplace, which may ultimately provide relief to people around the world.”

The bioglass consists of silica and a plastic or polymer called polycaprolactone. It displays cartilage-like properties – it is flexible, strong, durable and resilient.

It can be made in a biodegradable ink form, enabling the researchers to 3D print it into structures that encourage cartilage cells in the knee to form and grow – a process that they have demonstrated in test tubes.

It also displays self-healing properties when it gets damaged, which could make it a more resilient and reliable implant, and easier to 3D print when it is in ink form.

 One formulation developed by the team could provide an alternative treatment for patients who have damaged their intervertebral discs.

When cartilage degenerates in the spine it leaves patients with debilitating pain.

Current treatment involves fusing the vertebrae together, reducing the patient’s mobility.

The scientists believe they will be able to engineer synthetic bioglass cartilage disc implants, that would have the same mechanical properties as real cartilage, but which would not need the metal and plastic devices that are currently available.

Another formulation could improve treatments for those with damaged cartilage in their knee, say the team. Surgeons can currently create scar-like tissue to repair damaged cartilage, but ultimately most patients have to have joint replacements, which reduces mobility.

The team are aiming to print tiny, biodegradable scaffolds using their bioglass ink. These bio-degradable scaffolds would provide a template that replicates the structure of real cartilage in the knee.

When implanted, the combination of the structure, stiffness and chemistry of the bioglass would encourage cartilage cells to grow through microscopic pores. The idea is that over time the scaffold would degrade safely in the body, leaving new cartilage in its place that has similar mechanical properties to the original cartilage.

The researchers have received funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to take their technology to the next stage.

They aim to conduct trials in the lab with the technology and develop a surgical method for inserting the implants. They will also work with a range of industrial partners to further develop the 3D manufacturing techniques.

Professor Justin Cobb, the Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery at Imperial’s Department of Medicine, will be co-leading on the next stage of the research.

Professor Cobb explained, “This novel formulation and method of manufacture will allow Julian and his team to develop the next generation of biomaterials. Today, the best performing artificial joints are more than a thousand times stiffer than normal cartilage. While they work very well, the promise of a novel class of bearing material that is close to nature and can be 3D printed is really exciting.”

“Using Julian’s technology platform we may be able to restore flexibility and comfort to stiff joints and spines without using stiff metal and all its associated problems,” said Cobb.

Professor Laura Cipolla, from the Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences at the University of Milano-Bicocca, explained some of the more technical aspects of the research. “Based on our background on the chemical modification of bio- and nanostructured materials, proteins, and carbohydrates,” she said, “we designed a new chemical approach in order to force the organic component polycaprolactone to stay together in a stable way with the inorganic component silica.”

The technology still has a number of regulatory hurdles to overcome before it reaches clinical applications for both applications. The team predicts it will take 10 years to for both technologies to reach the market. They have patented the technology with Imperial Innovations – the College’s technology commercialization partner.

 Featured Image: Doctors repair a man’s foot. (Photo by Michael McCollough)

Bird Feathers Inspire ‘Structural’ Colors


By Sunny Lewis

SAN DIEGO, California, April 18, 2016 ( News) – Imagine a colorful T-shirt that never fades with washing, or a car that never needs a new coat of paint. Biomimicry already translated into nanomaterials in the lab could bring such marvels to market in the future.

Inspired by iridescent bird feathers that play with light, scientists at two American universities have created thin films of nanomaterials in a wide range of pure colors determined by physical structure rather than pigments or dyes.

Color determined by structure would never diminish in hue and could potentially be altered to satisfy anyone’s preference.

This research is among the first steps into the fledgling field of biomimicry, where scientists look for ways to improve human life by imitating the success of natural designs, processes and methods.

Here, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Akron in Ohio sought to recreate structural color patterns found in bird feathers to generate color without the use of pigments and dyes.

They identified melanosomes, tiny packets of melanin in the feathers, skin and fur of many animals, that can produce structural color when packed into solid layers, as they are in the feathers of some birds.


Melanin is a broad term for a group of natural pigments found in most organisms. In humans, melanin is the primary determinant of skin color. It is also found in hair and the pigmented tissue underlying the iris of the eye.

Melanins have diverse roles and functions in various organisms. The black feathers of birds owe their color to melanin; they are less readily degraded by bacteria than white feathers, or those containing other pigments.

A form of melanin makes up the ink used by many cephalopods, such as the ink that squids expel as a defense against predators.

Melanins also protect microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, against stresses that involve cell damage such as UV radiation from the sun.

Melanin protects against damage from high temperatures, chemical stresses, such as heavy metals and oxidizing agents, and biochemical threats, such as host defenses against invading microbes.

Structural color occurs through the interaction of light with materials that have patterns on a tiny scale reflecting light to make some wavelengths brighter and others darker.

In their laboratories these researchers get tiny packets of synthetic melanin to produce structural color, as in a bird’s feather, when they are packed into layers.

“We synthesized and assembled nanoparticles of a synthetic version of melanin to mimic the natural structures found in bird feathers,” said Nathan Gianneschi, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego.

Gianneschi’s work focuses on nanoparticles that can sense and respond to the environment.

“We want to understand how nature uses materials like this, then to develop function that goes beyond what is possible in nature,” he said.

Gianneschi proposed the research project after hearing Dr. Matthew Shawkey, a biology professor at the University of Akron, describe his work on the structural color in bird feathers at a conference.

Shawkey details the benefits of structural color, saying, “Pigments are both financially and environmentally costly, and can only change color by fading. Structural colors can, in theory, be produced from more common, environmentally friendly materials and could potentially be changed depending on the environment or your whims.”

As for practical uses of this biomimetic discovery, the scientists are thinking about applications of these nanomaterials as sensors, photo-protectors, and the creation of a wide range of colors without using pigments.

Featured Image: The iridescent black feathers of birds such as this African starling are leading scientists to make nanomaterials of structural colors. (Photo by Steve Slater) Creative commons license via Flickr

Main image: The iridescent colors of peacock feathers hold clues to the creation of structural colors. (Photo by Mike Leary) Creative commons license via Flickr

Image 01: Male wood duck with iridescent feathers of many colors. (Photo by Cliffords Photography) Creative commons license via Flickr


Butterflies Teach Scientists How to Boost Solar Cell Efficiency

Butterflies Teach Scientists How to Boost Solar Cell Efficiency

By Sunny Lewis

PENRYN, Cornwall, UK, August 28, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The way a small white butterfly holds its wings has inspired technology expected to make solar power cheaper and up to 50 percent more efficient.

In its caterpillar stage the Cabbage White butterfly is a pest that eats its way through cabbage crops across Europe, North Africa, Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

But University of Exeter scientists have seen past the pest stage to the butterfly stage.

The Cabbage White butterfly takes flight before other butterflies on cloudy days because its V-shaped wing position, known as reflectance basking, maximizes the concentration of solar energy on its thorax.

By mimicking this V-shaped posture the butterflies take to warm their flight muscles before take-off, and the structure of their wings, the researchers found that the power produced by dye-sensitized, thin-film solar cells can be increased by almost 50 percent.

“This proves that the lowly Cabbage White is not just a pest of your cabbages but actually an insect that is an expert at harvesting solar energy,” said Professor Richard ffrench-Constant, who conducts research into butterfly mimicry at the University of Exeter.

The V-shaped wing position is “strikingly similar to the V-trough solar concentrator which uses mirrored side walls to focus light towards a small area of photovoltaic material, thereby increasing the output power of any solar cell to which it is attached,” the scientists write.

The team found that the optimal angle by which the butterfly should hold its wings to increase temperature to its body was around 17 degrees. This angle increased the insect’s body temperature by 7.3 degrees Centigrade compared to when the wings were held flat.

A dye-sensitized solar cell is a low-cost, thin film solar cell. This photoelectrochemical system is based on a semiconductor formed between a photo-sensitized anode and an electrolyte.

To create more efficient solar cells, the researchers designed a novel photoanode structure, the part of the solar cell that absorbs the sun’s energy, using the wings of the Cabbage White as biotemplates.

Photoanode structures with arranged ridges and ribs made of nanoparticles were synthesized onto a fluorine-doped glass substrate coated with tin oxide.

Analysis indicated that the light-harvesting efficiencies of these photoanodes were higher than the normal titania photoanode without butterfly biotemplates.

The scientists replicated the wings to develop a new, lightweight reflective material for solar energy production.

“Biomimicry in engineering is not new,” said the study’s lead author Professor Tapas Mallick. “However, this truly multidisciplinary research shows pathways to develop low-cost solar power that have not been done before.”

Increasing solar cell efficiency by 50 percent is a big deal as the world weans itself off power generated by coal, oil and gas, which raises the planetary temperature.

Because there are many different types of efficiencies when it comes to solar cells, it can be difficult for non-specialists to do direct comparisons.

Currently, the official accredited World Record Efficiency is 14.1 percent, but efficiencies exceeding 15 percent are being achieved in the laboratory, and experts forecast efficiencies beyond 20 percent for the near future.

The paper, “White butterflies as solar photovoltaic concentrators,” by Katie Shanks, Dr Senthilarasu Sundaram, Professor Richard ffrench-Constant and Professor Tapas Mallick from the University of Exeter, is published in the journal “Scientific Reports,” online here.

Blog image: Cabbage White butterfly on yellow milkweed, North Carolina, USA (Photo by John Flannery, June 2015 creative commons license, Featured Image: Cabbage White butterfly Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand (Photo by Troup Dresser, July 2011 creative commons license,

Bringing Biomimicry to Market: Impact Investing Inspired by Nature

BringingBiomimicrytoMarket-ImpactInvestingInspiredbyNature_maximpact.154240By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

Biomimicry has captured the world’s imagination. From the moment Janine Benyus; seminal book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature appeared in 2002, hopes have been high for this new approach to design and engineering. Elegant, poetical and paradigm-changing, biomimicry and its sibling discipline, bio-inspired design, spoke to our hopes for harnessing the elegant solutions of nature for a more sustainable future.

Twelve years on, where are biomimicry and bio-inspired design today? And what opportunities are there for impact investors looking for ways to place capital in innovative, green and sustainable nature-based solutions?

Biomimicry success stories

There have been some notable successes in bio-inspired products in recent years. Self-cleaning paint incorporating the lotus effect; the ability of the structure of the lotus leaf to repel dirt; came onto the market as early as 1999. Today world wide annual sales of products using the lotus effect are now over $100 million with Degussa, Ferro and Sto some of the companies reaping the benefits.

Another example is the sharkskin swimsuit, famously banned from competition for giving unfair advantages to swimmers with its scale-mimicking technology. Calera, a company that specializes in converting carbon dioxide into green “reactive cements” to replace traditional cement has made its name with a bio-inspired process for capturing CO2. The high tech industry is turning out products incorporating bits of bio-inspired technology, too, especially in the fields of robotics and computer science. But the best-known, and most commercially successful biomimetic design of all time must be Velcro, the fastening system based on the structure of the cockleburr that is now incorporated into countless products including clothing, medical equipment and packaging worldwide.

These successes continue to inspire a generation of scientists. Research and development in this area have skyrocketed over the last ten years with the number of peer-reviewed papers now reaching about 3000 annually. According to the Da Vinci Index, a database tracking scholarly activity, interest in biomimicry has increased tenfold since the millennium. Patents for biometric innovations are also up: 67 were issued in 2012 as compared to just 3 in 2000. Biomimetic, biometric and bio-inspired research activity is buzzing in labs and universities around the world. AskNature, a database of projects under investigation shows the depth and breadth of bio-inspired research.

The successes of bio-inspired products and processes is also motivating product developers, entrepreneurs and major corporations to find ways to make something of the findings coming out of the science. Today proponents can be found in many places in the commercial world, including some surprising ones such as the Los Angeles Auto show with its biomimicry and mobility design challenge.

Market challenges

There have certainly been breakthroughs in finding applications for bio-inspired products and enthusiasm for the concept remains high. Yet even fans of biomimicry admit there haven’t been as many commercial successes as they’d like. This is because there are still significant challenges in bringing biomimicry to market, as green and sustainable business blogger Joel Makower has identified. Part of the problem is that bio-inspired innovations often arise in laboratories a long way from the marketplace (there’s a similar problem in cleantech). Their promises are often conceptual and can take years or even decades to find a viable commercial use.

Even the most brilliant ideas take a while to catch on, too; and they often require a champion. As Zygote Quarterly editor Tom McKeag points out in this blogpost, biomimicry’s greatest success stories, Lotusan and Velcro were far from overnight successes and only made it to prominence “because of the long and dogged efforts” of the individuals who discovered them. Similarly, despite ten years of effort and huge latent potential, materials like spider silk and adhesives materials inspired by gecko feet have so far failed to find their way to market.

This has led to some frustration from mainstream investors who were attracted to the high-tech mystique of biomimicry and expected it to produce quick financial results. As ethical finance thought leader Hazel Henderson commented in a recent interview, “the term “biomimicry” is sufficiently mysterious and obscure that: a) they’ve never heard of it and they don’t know anything about it, and b) it’s sort of intriguing because of the fact that a lot of corporations see this as the leading edge of innovation.” She went on to predict that, “a lot of trustees and pension fund beneficiaries are going to be knocking on the door of asset managers in institutional endowments and saying: “Hey, why aren’t we investing in biomimicry-type companies?”

Impact investors are starting to ask the same question. But, as Henderson implies, it may not be the right one.

Tapping into the ecosystem

Biomimicry and bio-inspired design is best thought of as a methodology and a framework for innovating. This means it’s not necessarily about individual businesses or single products or even technologies. Rather, it’s about a whole new approach to the process of development that depends on a rich ecosystem of research, learning, innovation and cross-sector collaboration.

To successfully engage with the field, impact investors need to look deeper into this ecosystem and ask themselves better questions: What is the best way for impact investors to put their money into beneficial bio-innovation? What role can impact finance play in speeding the process of bringing bio-inspired products and technologies to the marketplace?

New ways of thinking about investing in this sector are already taking shape. To address the oversimplified attitude toward biomimicry investing, Henderson and Benyus have collaborated on a set of criteria for identifying, working with and investing in companies that adhere to ethical principles in biomimicry finance. The approach recognizes that bio-inspired products and processes aren’t necessarily sustainable or socially beneficial; not all funds touting bio-based financial products operate according to green principles. Based on Henderson’s Life Principles, the criteria are aimed at helping investors find finance companies that place capital in biomimicry-related ventures in ethical ways.

Then there are the organizations actively building links between biomimicry research and the market. The Centre for Bioinspiration is a California-based for-profit enterprise that works directly with businesses to incorporate bio-inspired and biomimetic approaches into their products. It supports research into the economic landscape for biomimicry, tracking the growth and development of the sector. It also hosts an annual conference that focuses on the link between bio-technologies and products and the marketplace. This work is helping ease the transition from lab to market for new technologies and products, while it offers companies practical ways to incorporate bio-inspiration into product design.

Biomimicry 3.8, a social enterprise and nonprofit hybrid—and a certified BCorp—has proven that the concept of biomimicry is itself a marketable commodity. Founded by Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister, Biomimicry 3.8 this cross-sectoral venture has developed diverse revenue streams through delivering consulting services to businesses, publicly-funded institutions and governments. At the same time, it pursues its core mission of propagating biomimicry by providing thought leadership for the industry, keeping an index of current research projects, mapping the biomimicry community and acting as an information hub for professionals and the public. It provides materials and training for teachers along with resources like the Biomimicry Design Lens, a framework for incorporating nature’s processes into design, available as a free download.

Biomimicry 3.8’s work is helping keep the issue of bio-inspired innovation on the front burner for researchers, commercial industries and the public while the industry matures. In this way, it acts as a champion for the young bio sector in a way that could hold lessons for other young sectors such as impact investing.

Partly because of this work, biomimicry and bio-inspiration continues to grip the popular imagination and inspire books, reports, blogs, magazines and documentaries (many of them available through the Newsstand). Zygote Quarterly, edited by Tom McKeag is a prize-winning online magazine that offers cutting edge information on biomimicry research in a beautifully designed format. The Nature of Business by Giles Hutchins applies the principles of biomimicry to a new business paradigm, as does Katherine Collins; The Nature of Investing. The popular Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart brings biomimetism into the debate about recycling.

More than 100 years after the invention of Velcro, the taste for biomimicry is keener than ever, thanks to its devoted proponents and the innovations that have made it out of the labs and into the public arena. More than a trend, biomimicry is a movement and a framework for innovation and change. Impact investors who want to join this movement have the opportunity to connect with it in its early stages and support it as it grows.

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Better Names for Impact Investing (and other insights from Hazel Henderson)

by Marta Maretich

Hazel Henderson has never really liked the term “impact investing”.

“All investments have impacts,” she told us. “I pointed this out to the authors of the original paper published by the Rockefeller Foundation. Some of these impacts include blowing the tops off mountains and spilling oil in the Gulf of Mexico!”

Not mincing words is one of the characteristics that has made Henderson a thought leader in the ethical investing movement. Futurist, evolutionary economist, worldwide syndicated columnist, consultant on sustainable development and author of many books, articles and blogs, Henderson has turned her personal vision of a new kind of capitalism into a remarkable career spanning four decades.

Her CV is beyond distinguished, including 22 years of service on the Advisory Council of the Calvert Social Investment Fund and membership in the Social Investment Forum and the Social Venture Network. She founded Ethical Markets Media and won a slew of international honors for her work. She is the creator of the Green Transition Scoreboard, a tool that tracks the private financial system for all green sectors worldwide since 2007 (current total is $5.2 trillion) and measures progress “as defined by the triple bottom line of planet, people and profits”. Follow #greenscore on Twitter.

Taking a measured view of impact

This stellar track record speaks of Henderson&rsquo;s lifelong commitment to positive change in the area of beneficial finance and socially responsible investing. It also makes her a hard person to impress. While the world gets more excited about the potential of impact investing to solve its many problems, her support for the practice is tempered with realism.

“While I applaud the approach and achievements so far of this kind of investing,” she says, “I don’t see it as a new “asset class” since it must operate within all the old and still failing models of mainstream investing. And, as I have discussed with many of impact investing’s best practitioners in our TV series Transforming Finance the term “impact investing” simply adds to the confusion! Why not call it “positive impact investing” and thus make its good intentions clear?”

She’s right of course

Henderson makes several important points here; ones borne out by the latest research into impact investing.

One is that impact investing is not a distinct new field of investing, or “asset class”, but an investment approach that spans asset classes. For Henderson, who has been at the forefront of the worldwide movement to diversify the financial methods that can be used to achieve social and environmental benefit, it’s only one tool in the larger toolbox that now (thanks to her and social benefit investment pioneers like her) includes a full spectrum of approaches: microfinance, social entrepreneurship, social impact bonds, venture philanthropy, catalytic capital, responsible investing, patient capital and so on.

Another of Henderson’s points is that not all impact is good impact: “blowing the tops off mountains,” as she puts it, definitely comes into the bad impact category.

The principle here is that intentionality matters when it comes to impact investing. Obviously, the idea is to avoid bad impacts; that goes without saying. But it’s not enough for good impacts to happen by accident, either, or as mere byproducts of doing business. To be authentic impact businesses, enterprises have to be built around the positive impacts they exist to create (along with profits).

And it’s not enough to cross our fingers and hope for positive impact without bothering to find out whether it’s really happening. Positive impact goals; and the metric processes that measure them; need to form part of the business plan of impact businesses. Otherwise, there’s nothing to distinguish them from ordinary businesses and no reason for impact investors (who currently complain of a shortage of good opportunities) to commit their capital.

Keeping sight of a higher purpose

Finally; and perhaps most importantly; Henderson’s comment reflects her belief that we need to do more than just tinker with the way world finance works.

Impact investing may be a good thing, but its dependence on the “old and still failing models of mainstream investing” mean that the approach is, after all, nothing so revolutionary as is sometimes claimed. More precisely, it’s an adaptation of what we’ve had in the past, using familiar techniques and market models, though in new contexts. As such, it doesn’t go far enough to satisfy Henderson, whose organization’s mission is: “to foster the evolution of capitalism beyond current models based on materialism, maximizing self-interest and profit, competition and fear of scarcity”. Henderson proposes to achieve this by reforming markets and metrics while growing the green economy worldwide.

Henderson’s vision for the future of finance is more radical than that of the elite group that gave impact investing its name. Where they hoped to harness the power of capital for good, Henderson wants to alter the very nature of capitalism, transforming it into something that better serves the needs of humanity and the planet. This higher purpose makes it unlikely that she will champion any single approach to changing the way we invest. In one example of her far-reaching strategy, Henderson has partnered with the company Biomimicry 3.8 to create a set of Principles of Ethical Biomimicry Finance, now available on license to responsible asset managers.

Henderson is well placed to take the long view of various social investing movements. Her comment serves a reminder that impact investing is just beginning to prove itself. The jury is still out, and it’s probably a good thing the early hype seems to be dying down. However keen we are on impact investing (and we are keen) it is not a silver bullet for solving the world’s problems.

At the same time, it’s a good thing that the sector is growing. More deals, more collaboration and more experimentation may serve to take us closer to a time when all businesses are, as Henderson would have it, positive impact businesses.

For more about Hazel Henderson see this interview in Green Money Journal.

Hazel has recently released Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age: From Economism to Earth Systems Science from the UK’s Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and Tomorrow’s Company. It will appear soon in the US from Cosimo Publications, NY.

New Biomimicry Deals Seeking Investment

Biomimicry, a design discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies, is an emerging field that is increasingly catching interest from impact investors and social businesses.

According to The Global Biomimicry Efforts: An Economic Game Changer report, biomimicry-based goods and services could account for approximately $300 billion of U.S. GDP by 2025. The sector could also provide another $50 billion in terms of mitigating the depletion of various natural resources and reducing CO2 pollution.

Many established and emerging biomimicry companies are now looking for organizations that could fund, invest in, and support their operations. At Maximpact, we are excited about this trend because we believe biomimicry is here to stay and will represent an important part of future social business innovation.

Below we list three new biomimicry impact deals currently seeking investment on Maximpact platform. A complete list and contact details can be viewed when you register:

Water treatment technology inspired by aquatic plant systems

This company is a leader in natural, cost-effective, and sustainable water treatment technologies. It designs, builds and operates an all-natural, sustainable technology by harnessing nature’s power to restore polluted lakes, streams, and estuaries.

Its products have already been demonstrated on pilot and commercial scales. Clients in the pipeline include a well-known mining company and an environmentally responsible mixed-use real estate development company.

Wastewater and water pollution treatment inspired by biological processes that operate in nature

The company has over 30 years experience with natural wastewater treatment design, general aquatic management, and project supervision. Its design harnesses the biological processes that operate in nature taking the form of an engineered treatment system to successfully meet discharge standards and permitting requirements.

The company is a pioneer in the use of natural systems for the removal of chemicals, petroleum hydrocarbons, endocrine disruptors, and other detrimental water pollutants. They envision the remediation of impaired natural water bodies and soils as a major part of their future work.

Fans inspired by the whale’s fins

This company produces fans and turbines and makes extensive use of digital technology which extends from design specification, through CNC machining and fabrication. Their one of a kind fans use a new kind of airfoil which is more energy efficient and much quieter.

The performance of the fan’s blades is ideal for a product that can save operational energy consumption while reducing heating and cooling costs significantly by de-stratifying and mixing the different layers of air in rooms. The company is now ready to take the product to the next level, instead of just designing fans and turbine elements they also want to move into manufacturing and sales.

For further resources on Biomimicry we highly recommend reading the book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Jamine M.Benyus, seeing her TED talk or visiting Maximpact’s newsstand which holds additional industry resources.

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