Surrounded by Genius Nature’s Take on Engineering

- We live in a beautiful world surrounded by genius. (water gurgles) Shark skin is antimicrobial and reduces drag. Lotus leaf plants have self-cleaning surfaces. Peacock feathers create color without pigment. Gecko foot pads create adhesion without adhesives. I've always been fascinated by the natural world. Number one, I see the inherent beauty, but secondly, on a deeper level I look and I see possible solution sets to design challenges. I'm Maria O'Farrell and I'm a biomimicry professional. And what that means is it's my job to go into companies and help them solve design challenges using 3.8 billion years of research and development from the natural world. (techno music) - My name's Kevin Beck and I work at Lenovo. Engineering is ultimately all about iteration. You rarely get anything right the first time. You build it and you test it and you figure out what's wrong with it and then you improve it and you do that again, and again, and again, and again, but nature's been doing that for billions of years. So sometimes it helps to sort of skip ahead in the process and see what solution nature came up with. That's what biomimicry is all about; taking the best of nature and seeing if we can somehow adapt that to solve a technology problem. So here's a good example of how this works. We've got a thermal and cooling engineer, who's faced with a reasonably large challenge of creating a new type of fan to go into a new all-in-one desktop. By necessity it has to be really, really thin, but also be really, really quiet. So this engineer took his son to the aquarium on a Saturday. And there was a dolphin show. (dolphin clicks) So he's sitting there watching the dolphin show and he notices that when they come out of the water and they go back into the water, it's a very clean exit and a very clean entry because of the shape of their body. - Dolphins evolved a design strategy so that they could move through the water quickly with the least amount of noise to capture their prey. - He had this kind of ah-ha moment that said, hmm, if they're that efficient in water, I wonder if that structure might also work for a fan in air? - Water has 500 times the frictional drag that air does. So if you found something that can do it in water, it stands to reason that you found a pretty good design for the air. - So he goes back and sort of mocks up this design in his CAD program. (whimsical music) It didn't work very well at all, the first, second, third, fourth, fifth time, but he finally got to something that actually works really, really well. There's a fan blade and on the ends of the tips of the blades, there’s a little structure that looks kinda like a dolphin's body that are very efficient at moving air and very, very quiet. There are a number of other examples of biomimicry in Lenovo products as well. Stands inspired by the shape of an orchid stem. Fans inspired by the shape of an owl's wing. (air rushes against wings) Cooling vents inspired by the honeycomb structure of a beehive. Each of these designs have all in some way been made better by biomimicry. - We are natural beings, we are animals. And I think a lot of the problems that we face are tied indelibly to the fact that we have divorced ourselves from nature. But the good news is, again as a young species, that we have a lot of mentors in evolutionary elders and a life's operating manual that we can consult. All of the solutions we seek out are right in front of us. We're surrounded by genius. (techno music)

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