Biomimicry: underlying patterns

[Assignment 2: Brenda M & Dan C.]

Biomimicry strives to apply biologically inspired functions into direct application. These are listed into three major categories of form, process, and system. Respectively, these categories deal with shape and structure, the steps taken to achieve an ultimate end goal, and how different organisms/processes relate together to achieve the goal or need of the organism.

Deep Patterns    We will look at two organisms found in and around the Schuylkill River as it passes through central Philadelphia and identify some recurring deep patterns underlying the strategies that these organisms use to accomplish specific functions.  This exercise is essential to biomimicry in order for us to not only learn from biology, but also to apply what we’ve learned.

Fish in the river itself and mosquitoes living near the river display similar deep patterns when we look at the function of transportation of materials in both organisms. In each case, the transportation of materials are driven by processes necessary for survival, are dependent on a very specific physical form to facilitate extraction of essential nutrients, and are externally powered by secondary systems.

Mosquitoes    Everybody hates mosquitoes.  And for good reason.  Even when they are not transferring deadly diseases, they sneak in generally undetected, inject you painlessly, and sneak off again before the itching begins.  The very specific form of the proboscis and the process of injection efficiently and effortlessly facilitates the efficient transfer of materials for a process necessary for the continual survival of the mosquito.

Female mosquitoes feed on blood to obtain specific proteins to produce eggs. Every bloodmeal produces  about 250 eggs.  The structure of the mosquito’s proboscis is composed of three parts, in such a way to effectively pierce skin with minimal pain, and simultaneously draw in blood efficiently.  As the mosquito pierces the skin, it injects both an    anesthetic and anticoagulant into the blood, to  help minimize pain and keep blood flowing within the narrow channel of her proboscis, respectively.  As soon as the mosquito goes on her merry way, the immune system on the victim will begin to break down those chemicals, causing that intense itch.

Researchers in Japan have been studying the painless effect of the mosquitoes proboscis as it injects the skin so they can replicate the form for a painless needle for medical applications.  In particular, they focus on the three-part nature of the needle, one straight and two jagged, and describe in very specific detail how a biomimicked needle does indeed effectively and painlessly inject the skin. [see diagram below]

From paper " Realistic imitation of mosquito’s proboscis: Electrochemically etched sharp and jagged needles and their cooperative inserting motion" by Hayato Izumi, Masato Suzuki, Seiji Aoyagi,Tsutomu Kanzaki published online 2010Feb10 in Sensors and Actuators

For the mosquito, the effective transportation of materials relies on an external source, and is effective because of the specific form of the proboscis and the specific process that form enables.

Fish     This piece will deal with how fish display the key elements of a model organism for biotransport of materials.   Often times, chemical reactions, to immune-body are triggered in direct response to the presence of a single enzyme or foreign matter.  The driving force of these materials, or specifically, the transportation of the essential materials often fuels the complex, multi-system relationships of the world’s biosphere.

Take for example the literal need for “fuel”.   Bodies demand oxygen in order to increase the efficiency of energy production.   So vital is this reflex that it is considered an involuntary action for many organisms. (Including people of course!)

Fish that reside in the Schuylkill river may not be as beautiful as the clown fish that reside in the ocean, but they analogously transport oxygen into their blood streams through from the water supply.  In order to maximize this extraction process, the fish employ a counter current system. In which the blood vessels run in the opposite direction of the flow of water.  By utilizing this system, the fish are able tominimize the amount of the work, while also increasing the total concentration of oxygen that can be dissolved in the blood. This is shown schematically in Rahn et. al’s paper theorizing of aquatic gas exchange. (Figure E)

"Aquatic gas exchange: Theory" by Hermann Rahn Department of Physiology, SUNY Buffalo Published in Respiration Physiology 1966, Vol 1, Issue 1 p.1-12

In order to further increase the system’s efficiency, the shape, or form, of the gill is designed for maximized surface area to ensure optimal efficiency.

Much like the way mosquitos  transfer blood to be used for nourishment, for fish, the process of transporting materials carries many similarities or deep patterns.

As previously mentioned, they are driven on the processes necessity for survival, the form of the gills, extraction of essential nutrients, and are externally powered by secondary systems. (Oxygen may be extracted while the fish isn’t moving, provided that there is a current of water)

In short, the fish is a model candidate to study for material transport due to its ability to be analyzed in form, process, and system across analogous patterns to its material transport counterparts.


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