Kristen Sparrow • September 03, 2012
Have gotten off onto a tangent of biomimicry reading and thinking in trying to flesh out the evolutionary underpinnings of acupuncture. I haven’t blogged about it much, but am thinking about it quite a bit(view the “update.” And am heartened that many others are thinking likewise.
Again, this is apropos of nothing health related, but of interest, and, hey, it’s a holiday
Everyone’s talking about ways to reduce the human footprint, or to get to “net zero” impact. But nature, says [Tim McGee, a biologist and member of consultancy Biomimicry 3.8] usually goes one step further: “It’s almost never net zero—the output from that system is usually beneficial to everything around it.” What if we could build our cities the same way? “What if, in New York City, when it rained, the water that went into the East River was cleaner than when it fell?” And what if, when forests caught fire, the flames could be extinguished by means that didn’t depend on toxic substances? “Nature creates flame retardants that are nontoxic,” notes McGee. “Why can’t we?”
For years researchers have focused on the chemistry of flame retardants, without results. But perhaps natural processes could offer some path to innovation in the laboratory, McGee says. Maybe it’s the way jack-pine cones open in the face of heat (to allow reproduction even as fire destroys the forest), or the way eucalyptus trees shed scattered pieces of quick-burning bark to suck up oxygen and take fire away from the main trunk. Jaime Grunlan, a mechanical engineer at Texas A&M, has developed a fire-resistant fabric that uses chitosan, a renewable material taken from lobster and shrimp shells (and a chemical relative of the chitin in butterflies’ wings), to create a nanolayer polymer coating that, when exposed to heat, produces a carbon “shell” that protects the fabric.