Top Five Brilliant Energy Ideas, Courtesy of Mother Nature

Posted on 14. Jul, 2011 by in Design & Culture













Nature offers a host of solutions in the quest for alternative sources of energy and a more efficient use of energy available now. Here are the TOP FIVE leading contenders:

Photo Credit: Florence Lilly

1. Calla Lilies

San Rafel, California’s PAX Scientific gained new insight into streamlining potential for fluids – like air and water – in a beautiful flower.

CEO Jay Harman focused on the geometry of nature toward developing a better understanding of natural flow. He asked,

“If fluids always tend to follow a particular path, is there a way to design equipment that takes advantage of this fact?”

Apparently so; the company accordingly develops systems that move fluids more naturally and, consequently, more efficiently.

Fans, mixers, and other fluid-related movers employing PAX’s “Streamlining Principle” reduce the demand on the motors behind them to a fraction of the power that standard pumps and equipment require.

2. Termite Mounds

Termites are often associated with their destructive impact on the wooden structures we call home. However, termites have been engineering innovators in the construction of the mounds in which they properly reside. These structures are marvels of climate control: able to maintain stable, moderate internal temperatures while the sun scorches the land around them.

Such was the inspiration for architect Mick Pearce in his plan for the Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe. Among it sophisticated design elements, the Centre uses both the building’s own insulating mass and daily temperature fluctuation to its advantage: drawing in fresh air, blowing it up through hollow spaces in the floors, and sending out the warming air through brick funnels on the roof chilled from the previous night.

The ultra-high efficiency system operates at a fraction of the cost of similar structures using traditional air recycling and conditioning.

3. Whale Fins

The great whales inhabiting the world’s oceans glide through depths and shallows with a grace that seems without effort. Humpback whales have a particular advantage identified by scientists: bumps on the leading edge of their fins. These bumps significantly reduce drag and increase lift in a wider operating envelope than a comparable smooth-edged fin.

Engineers at Whale Power are mimicking the whale fin in their designs to improve turbine and fan performance and efficiency. These efforts will help to make wind power an even more attractive alternative energy source.

4. Kelp

Undersea life has evolved to move in harmony with the tides and flow of the sea.

BioPower Systems is mimicking sea plants and fish with their bioWAVE™ generator and bioSTREAM™ hydrofoil. These systems are mounted to the seafloor for large-scale energy capture; renewable, efficient technologies with tremendous potential.

Photo Credit: Petr Kratochvil

5. Photosynthesis

Plants, algae, and even some bacteria, use chlorophyll to convert sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates for fuel with oxygen as their waste product. They accomplish this feat via chlorophyll, a molecule that absorbs light and transfer it to an internal reaction center.

Scientists are hoping to copy the “green” ability of plants with artificial photosynthesis. Their goal: use sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen could be used as feedstock for the vaunted fuel cell (i.e., essentially a refillable battery). Currently, the energy content of hydrogen produced for fuels cell is less than the energy – mostly from fossil fuels or nuclear reactions – that goes into obtaining it.

Sun Catalytix of Massachusetts hopes to make the idea of a commercial reality and take us closer a true hydrogen economy. The bonus: artificial photosynthesis will pull a major greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, combating climate change.

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3 Responses to “Top Five Brilliant Energy Ideas, Courtesy of Mother Nature”

  1. jakeball

    15. Jul, 2011

    Great article, nature has had billions of years to evolve these principles, so there is no point in reinventing the wheel when we can copy what is already done effectively.

  2. MichaelRiccard

    15. Jul, 2011

    Totally agree with you jakeball. It’s sometimes the simplest solutions that are the most elegant. Apple realized this and their products have taken off!

  3. [...] will pull a major greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, combating climate change.Source: Opportunity GreenAlso see Top 5 areas where Nature-Inspired Innovation Works and What is biomimicry?Water Rhapsody [...]

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