Sunday, April 29, 2012

No. 499: Applying biometics to product development (1/2) (April 30, 2012)

Applying biometics to product development is growing widespread. The body mechanism of insects and plants that allow them to survive in the severe environment gives clues to the designing and development of new products. Professor Hideki Ishida of Tohoku University is trying to apply the body mechanism of dragonfly to wind generation. Using the equipment to visualize wind flow, he analyzed the air current around a dragonfly and found that the rugged surface of its feathers catches wind effectively and changes it for smooth fly. He built a propeller very much like a feather of a dragonfly and confirmed that the new propeller started to turn around even with a wind velocity of merely 20 cm, while the existing windmill needs a wind velocity of at least 2 m. His study may make it possible to develop a windmill that can spin even with a breeze. At the current stage, the new windmill can illuminate 20 LED bulbs set one meter away from the propeller. He dreams building a small windmill installable in the garden to create a new lifestyle.

A jewel beetle radiates in seven colors depending on the angle from which it is seen because particles of a nanometer size are aligned in several layers on the surface of its feathers. Affected by reflection and refraction of light, the particles create colors specific to jewel beetle.  Nakano and Co., Labs in Niigata Prefecture applies this principle of color to its stainless steel products. The company successfully developed the micorfabrication technology to keep their products shining without using coating materials. Nakano’s products do not discolor, and they will become stainless steels after recycling. With the background of the progress of nanotechnology and computer simulation, studying the relations between the shape and function of a creature has been developing. It is well known that the nose of the train of the Shinkansen is designed like the beak of kingfisher. In this way, many industries are busily occupied with the research on the application of biometrics to developing new materials with improved functions. 

The nose of the Shinkansen train is designed like the beak of kingfisher.  

 Wind generation with a breeze. The idea comes from tree leaves.

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