From the first blacksmith shops and soap makers to steel foundries, cement plants and Kevlar, global production technologies have mostly applied chemical and mechanical engineering techniques.
Our products look a bit cooler, but the processes that make them are often antiques:
- We purify water with poisonous chemicals and mechanical filters. We use extreme heat from fossil fuels to melt sand to make glass.
- We mine coal, wash it clean in water, then burn it to make heat to boil water to generate electricity.
- We boil oil byproducts in sulphur at high temperatures to make Kevlar.
- We grind trees into wood chips and mix them with toxic fossil fuel derivatives to make building materials like particle board.
- We bake limestone at extreme temperatures to make the cement we use to make concrete.
It might be what we know – but it’s wasteful, energy intensive, expensive and destructive.
Following quietly behind today’s Information Technology revolution is a quieter shift in production technology. Enter biomimicry…
Biomimicry is an area of innovation that explores nature for smarter solutions – solutions that apply biology and physics to deliver non-toxic solutions – solutions that can be executed with much less environmental impact, less energy AND less cost.
Biomimicry takes the approach that nature has been developing product and process designs that work at room temperature using physics and biology for 3.8 billion years. So there are solutions there just waiting for us to apply (once we look beyond traditional engineering).
Check under any new freeway
There’s an example of biomimicry being applied under most modern freeways. Instead of the concrete drains that used to speed polluted runoff into rivers and oceans, today you find wetlands – wetlands full of ponds to slow water down and beds of rushes to contain silt.
The full scale of of biomimetic approaches covers everything from bullet train design to carpet tile fixing systems. There are technologies that reapply the physics of tornados to clean water and make clearer ice. There are technologies that imitate the way nature makes wood to deliver compounds equivalent to PVC, polystyrene and particle board.
In agriculture, regenerative farming techniques design rich ecosystems that increase soil productivity and carbon sequestration. Ancient biochar techniques are being applied by startups supported by global giants like Microsoft.
Whether it’s a florist turning plant waste and cardboard into flower fertilizer using her worm farm or an manufacturer microfibrillating cellulose into building products and furniture – innovators and entrepreneurs are going beyond traditional engineering.
Want to know more about a world of smart opportunity?
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