Nature technology the grandest of all

May 12, 2009 · Filed Under Editor's Corner 

Is nature in rescue of technology or technology in rescue of nature? With a drastic shift in a way the technologist and scientist envision the future technological advancement, it is becoming more prevalent that more and more technology is mimicking the wonders of nature in finding the next generation innovations to untangle the environmental global issues and in improving the quality of life as well as other aspect of it that can substantially change our living standard as we got so much accustomed to it. Invention of Velcro by “de Mestral” in 1948 is a perfect example of such biomimetrics where we can see the technologists’ inspiration for nature. But this sort of inspirational ideas goes even back to da Vinci’s area where his spectacular avian flying machines was inspired from Icarus’ feathers or Write Brother’s inspiration that started by studying the flying nature of vultures. In a real term technology involves artifacts coming from the Greek tekhne, ‘art’ or ‘skill,’ which in its central idea is the body of knowledge that is available to a culture for fashioning and using implements where as ‘nature’ is quite a grand word which refers more or less to everything generated or produced making nature all that there is and there are no better models to follow. There are many examples of this shift of thoughts by companies around the globe, one such example is a venture company in Japan by the name of SPIBER with an aim to put the synthetic spider silk to the first practical use in the world. Corroborating with Institute for Advanced Biosciences (IAB), they made the best use of the most advanced genetic engineering, microbial engineering and working toward exploiting of mass production technology of spider silk protein.
Nissan is another such example by finding a better way in improving the development of crash prevention technology by mimicking some of the best proponents of collision avoidance in the natural world by developing a crash avoidance robotic car inspired by flight of the Bumblebee which was exhibited at CEATEC Japan 2008. Through a joint research with Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at Japan’s prestigious University of Tokyo, Nissan has built the Biomimetic Car Robot Drive, or BR23C. BR23C is a robotic micro-car that recreates bee characteristics with the goal of producing a system that prevents collisions altogether.
In flight, each bee creates its own oval-shaped personal space which in fact closely resembles Nissan’s Safety Shield concept. But more crucially, it is the bee’s compound eyes, capable of seeing more than 300-degrees that allow the bumblebee to fly uninterrupted inside its personal space. In order to recreate the function of a compound eye, engineers came up with the idea of a Laser Range Finder (LRF).
The LRF detects obstacles up to two meters away within a 180-degree radius in front of the BR23C, calculates the distance to them, and sends a signal to an on-board microprocessor, which is instantly translated into collision avoidance. In just a split second BR23C detects an obstacle mimicking the movements of a bee and instantly changes direction by turning its wheels at right angles or greater to avoid a collision according to Nissan. Another example is a Bio Energy production using micro algae. Through a joint research by IAB (Institute for Advanced Biosciences, Keio University) and DENSO Corporation and DENSO Corporation where the researchers use a unique metabolism of a newly discovered green alga called “Pseudochoricystis ellipsoidea” that synthesizes and accumulates oil. These algae are green color single cell plant and inhabit in fresh water and usually repeat cell division while photosynthesizing. However, when these plants go into the state where their nitrogen nutrition significantly lowers, the number of the cell division will reduce making them to produce biodiesel which can be considered as an alternative fuel to a diesel fuel (light oil). There are many such examples where we see our appreciation and inspiration for nature’s wonders come to rescue us in creating a more sustainable and friendlier form of technologies.

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