When efficiency isn’t

When you’re an infinite being (or have at-will access to one, e.g. prayer, meditation etc.), traditional measures of efficiency matter less and that can lead to highly novel implementations (otherwise known as really cool stuff, no pun intended on the vortex tube below).

Using DNA as the original thought basis for this, the overall system theme is: using thousands of “too-small” units to achieve something useful. Using biomimetics (or “cultural mimetics”) allows us to tap into the expressions of natural genius we encounter every day.

First several real world examples, then a challenge: fresh water in a fresh, novel way. Existing examples that show suboptimizing depends on your frame of reference:

Efficiency

Vortex tubes: cooling with no moving parts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vortex_tube

“Vortex tubes have lower efficiency than traditional air conditioning equipment. They are commonly used for inexpensive spot cooling, when compressed air is available. Commercial models are designed for industrial applications to produce a temperature drop of about 45 C° (80 F°).”

Dolphin skin: laminar flow for reduced drag (less energy consumed)

http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/shedding-light-on-dolphins (more detailed)

http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1748-3190/1/2/001/bb6_2_001.pdf?request-id=a0a23099-3da3-4589-a770-1484403a2469 (technical paper)

http://library.witpress.com/pages/PaperInfo.asp?PaperID=18413

The sun’s power density

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun

“Power density is about 194 µW/kg of matter,[38] though since most fusion occurs in the relatively small core the plasma power density there is about 150 times bigger.[39] For comparison, the human body produces heat at approximately the rate 1.3 W/kg, roughly 600 times greater per unit mass.[40] Assuming core density 150 times higher than average, this corresponds to a surprisingly low rate of energy production in the Sun’s core—about 0.272 W/m3. This power is much less than generated by a single candle.[note 2] The use of plasma with similar parameters for energy production on Earth would be completely impractical—even a modest 1 GW fusion power plant would require about 5 billion metric tons of plasma.”

Effectiveness

Gecko’
s Feet: an army of one built from thousands of tiny foot soldiers (pardon the puns…)

It’s not each individual hair of the gecko’s feet that allow them to cling to glass upside down, it’s the Van der Waals attractive forces of hairs working in unity.

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/902/geckos-feet-inspire-super-adhesive (probably the most informative overall)

http://www.baesystems.com/Businesses/SharedServices/Divisions/AdvancedTechnologyCentre/FeatureArchive/bae_ss_atc_geckoglue.html

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081009143704.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/781611.stm (neat pix, weak write-up)

http://biblioteca.universia.net/html_bura/ficha/params/id/12769505.html

Challenge for the Future:

Step 1: Who can calculate and report on the energy requirements and mechanical specifics for boiling water using a parabolic domed dish (either top or both top & bottom focus the sun’s rays) that is sized so that the available solar energy can boil the water in the vessel?

Step 2: Supplemental power grid (solar, gravity feed, etc., it has to work unconnected from any external power source) to power the distilled water collection to bulk containment as well as do remote descaling coordination for each vessel)

Step 3: Source funding and manufacturing; implement a field trial.

~Matt Weilert

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A walk in the forest…

Systems Thinking teaches us how to scale our perspective to study the forest or the trees, while Systems Engineering tells us what to do with the data we find.

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