Category Archives: avoid instead of counteract

Shark Skin as an bacteria barrier

shark2.jpg.w300h225In the sea, a whale’s skin is home to barnacles, algae, and bacteria. In contrast, shark skin is squeaky clean. Parasites appear unable to attach to the shark skin. It is thought that the many small ridges and bumps on the shark’s skin surface discourage attachment. Bacteria prefer to colonize a smooth surface; a textured surface many require too much energy. The shark skin does not kill bacteria but simply discourages their presence. As a result, there is little chance of bacteria overcoming their resistance to shark skin.

Technical application:

In hospitals nursing call buttons, bed rails, and tray tables.

In restaurant door handles, especially in public restrooms

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Pilot Whale for a Self-cleaning Ship Hull and safe of fuel costs

ship Long-finned pilot whales swim in cool regions of the oceans. They grow to 12-16 feet in length and weigh several tons. The whales are characterized by an enlarged forehead and a swimming behavior siwhalemilar to dolphins. The creatures are found to have highly-specialized apparatus for maintaining smooth, clean skin. Countless tiny surface pores produce a slime coating. The gel washes off with movement and is continually replenished. This “skin care” prevents bacteria and algae from gaining a foothold and forming growth colonies. The whale’s surface chemicals also contain enzymes that repel microorganisms. This feature in turn avoids barnacles, tubeworms and other marine life which are otherwise attracted to underwater surfaces.

How can the production of “slime” by pilot whales possibly be useful as a technical application?

Technical application:

clean ships without cleaning

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future glass will withstand the impact of a baseball

shellHow do sea shells stay in one piece as they are buffeted constantly by strong currents and waves? After all, most shells consist of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) which is a brittle and relatively weak material. Calcium carbonate takes many forms including marble, limestone, and chalk.

One secret of success is the distribution of fine cracks within the shell structure.

Technical application:

ultrastrong glass

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Zebrafish – Spine Repair

ZebrafishInjuries to the spine are some of the most serious challenges in medicine. We are all familiar with the tragedy of paralysis which may result from spinal trauma.  In mammals, including people, a protective mechanism results in an unfavorable side effect to spinal trauma.  Following an injury, cells called glia are activated which flood the area of inflammation.  These cells result in a buildup of scar tissue which becomes a chemical and physical barrier to the growth and repair of nerves at the injury site.

Technical application:

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scorpion “skin” for more abrasion resistance

ScorpionA species of North African scorpion does not mind getting sand blasted or whipped by desert winds. While other desert creatures burrow downward for protection, the scorpion scurries in the open and withstands abrasion. Studies reveal that its surface is covered with many hardened, dome-shaped bumps just a few microns in size. This armor coating deflects nearby air flow and reduces the force of wind and sand.

Technical application:

abrasion resistance

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inspired by a tree: bypassing problems will make complex systems more fail-safe

Vein_sceletonLook closely at many tree and plant leaves and you will see an intricate network of veins. Besides the channels branching outward from a central stem, you may also notice many smaller veins in random directions, connecting with each other in closed loops. This complex arrangement is unlike the simple outward geometry of tree branches and root systems. The structure provides protection for the leaf. Suppose there is damage from disease, insects, or wind so that a vein is broken. Nutrients and water can then take alternate paths across the leaf through adjacent veins. Even the larger, central vein of the leaf can be successfully bypassed. The multiple veins also allow for fluctuations in nutrient loads due to moisture and temperature changes. Similar loop network designs are observed in coral colonies, insect wings, and the blood vessels of our eye.

Technical application:

create safe complex systems

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Ice-free roads caused by sugar?

beet.jpg.w180h141 salzlorrySugar beets provide 30 percent of the world’s sugar. At refineries, the sugar is extracted and a liquid residue remains. In the upper Midwest, it was noticed that this residue, placed in holding ponds, did not freeze under wintry conditions. Chemical studies reveal a natural antifreeze chemical in the beets. This design feature protects the growing beets themselves from the cold, and also caught the attention of highway crews.

Technical application:

ice-free roads

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