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Natural Design

We continue to evolve and learn from Nature itself. The Missoula Montana-based "Biomimicry Institute" promotes the study and integration of natural design principles and serves as a resource for students and researchers through workshops and curricula.

Bio-mimicry adapts natural systems which have evolved over 3.8 billion years of evolution to create more sustainable human technologies. Elegant and functional designs found in Nature have been used to create structures, complex machines, electronics and even transportation and communication networks.

Some applications include:

Building robotic mechanical arms and prosthetic limbs based on the musculature of an elephant's trunk.

Designing more efficient washers and clothes dryers by studying how loose skin, long ears and fur coats of mammals shed water as they shake-off.

Creating shock absorption features for electronics using layers of rubber and closely-packed glass beads to mimic spongy bone tissue found in woodpecker skulls.

Of course my favorite example is a single-blade ceiling fan based on a twirling maple seed's rotation as it falls. The shape and precise balance between weight of the seed and the length of its wing created a design for an airfoil, single blade fan that moves more air while operating at slower speed with less turbulence, wind noise and energy consumption than conventional flat-blade ceiling fans.

Companies whose product design principles benefit from nature can participate in an "Innovation for Conservation" initiative which directs product profits to conservation projects that protect the habitats species that inspired the designs.

That positive feedback loop is another prime example of how biomimicry works.

Naturalist Dave Anderson is Senior Director of Education for The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, where he has worked for over 30 years. He is responsible for the design and delivery of conservation-related outreach education programs including field trips, tours and presentations to Forest Society members, conservation partners, and the general public.

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