With limited non-renewable resources at hand but intermittent renewable resources, we might have to consider the slight possibility that we might just be nearing the end of the energy cliff.
The earth and its flora and fauna have survived over 3.8 billion years living off the energy of the sun, it’s time we get inspired and creative and make most of what we have while being eco-friendly, and who better to learn from then nature!
Let’s take a look at how we can revamp our technology and make the most of our renewable resources.
Wind energy has been one of the most reliable renewable sources of energy of the entire lot. The design of our windmills drives how much energy we are able to capture. Take a look at how whale flippers have revolutionized our windmills!
When the blades of the wind turbines rotate they generate electricity, so the faster they move, the more electricity is produced. Humpback whales have certain structures known as tubercles, which it uses to move in a rotatory motion with ease. On further research on these structures, a whale watcher discovered that these structures help reduce drag force (force of resistance exerted by a fluid) by up to 32%.
The bumps (called “tubercles”) on the leading edges of humpback whale fins can be emulated to increase efficiencies in power generation and utilization. Whale fin-inspired turbine blades are quieter and more energy-efficient than conventional blades, able to produce the same amount of energy at 10 mph (16 km/h) than would previously require 17 mph (27 km/h) [WhalePower].
A field that has had growing demand in the past few years is energy storage, coming up with a lightweight, cost-effective alternative to batteries is the dream solution, since it would help solve the intermittency issue with renewables.
The leaves of the fern are jam-packed with fractal structures, creating a system that’s super-efficient in storing energy and transporting water throughout the western sword fern.
Researchers in Australia, have developed a new type of electrode that radically increases the energy storage capacity of super capacitors and could lead to flexible, thin film self-contained solar capture and storage devices (30 times more effective than current limits while holding stored charge for longer).
As the design is based on flexible thin-film technology, it also has potential for other solar energy-related applications. “Capacity-boosted supercapacitors would offer both long-term reliability and quick-burst energy release for when someone wants to use solar energy on a cloudy day for example – making them ideal alternatives for solar power storage,” stated the Professor.
This research is still in a relatively early stage, but the RMIT team is aiming to expand the technology to create a flexible, thin, all-in-one solar capture and storage solution. If successful, these graphite electrodes could conceivably be used with supercapacitors to capture and store energy in everything from cars to phones.
“We found that larger hummingbirds are more fuel-efficient than smaller species, and this may have to do with how smaller hummingbirds need to beat their wings more rapidly than larger species.” Hummingbird metabolism is a marvel of evolutionary engineering. They need an incredible amount of energy to flap their wings 50 times or more per second in order to maintain hovering flight.
Developed by Tyer Wind, a startup based in Tunisia, the turbine uses biomimicry principles to replicate the mechanical action of hummingbird wings. The design is fundamentally different from standard rotor-based wind turbines because instead of converting linear motion – wind blowing across the land – into a circular motion, it converts it into a figure-eight pattern. Not only is that shape the same as the one hummingbird wings make while the birds hover, but it also generates energy on both the upstroke and the downstroke.
We believe that biomimicry has the best potential to be harmonious with nature while resulting in better outcomes than any artificial means of development. Animals, plants, and insects have utilized such technology to establish their ecosystem with no adverse effects to nature, and such behavior and way of life are what we humans may need in the current era.
Through the biomimicry lens, we see nature not as a warehouse of materials but instead a model to follow, a measure of success, and the most generous of mentors. Talk about a renewable source of energy! This enables us to tune in to the wisdom of highly-evolved living systems all around and within us, then borrow the blueprints for simple, sophisticated, and ultimately sustainable solutions.