Biology presents us with answers to design problems that we suspect would be very useful if only we could implement them successfully. We use the Russian theory of problem solving - TRIZ - in a novel way to provide a system for analysis and technology transfer. The analysis shows that whereas technology uses energy as the main means of solving technical problems, biology uses information and structure. Biology is also strongly hierarchical. The suggestion is that smart technology in hierarchical structures can help us to design much more efficient technology. TRIZ also suggests that biological design is autonomous and can be defined by the prefix "self-" with any function. This autonomy extends to the control system, so that the sensor is commonly also the actuator, resulting in simpler systems and greater reliability.
The main steps in transferring ideas from a biological context to an engneering one are: 8) recognizing the required function within the engineering context; 9) isolating a biological equivalent; 10) transferring the biological function to the engineering context. To illustrate this, there are many ways of joining two pieces of material together which can be displayed on Cartesian coordinates wiht the non-parametric variables of strength of interaction and permanence.
SC773: An Introduction to Biomimetic Engineering
The course describes a wide range of plant and animal mechanisms, structures and materials, chosen for their outstanding mechanical performance. Their principles of function will be dissected and characterized and their implementation in an engineering environment illustrated. In many instances these are already available as products, but other examples will be given where a product is ready for exploitation, or where there is a market need for a product which could be satisfied by a known biomimetic principle. Topics will include, but not be confined to, composites and ceramics, deployable structures, flight, thermal properties, sensing and simple biorobotics. A mechanism (currently under development at Bath University, UK) will be described by which transfer of technology from biology to engineering can be made more transparent and essentially deskilled.