[EAS] Nature's Patents

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Sun Jun 19 23:14:31 EDT 2005

Dear Colleagues -

The most recent (June 9th) Technology Quarterly in The Economist
<http://www.economist.com/science/tq/>, always a pleasant
alternative to the hyperthyroid editorial style of WIRED magazine,
leads off with an article on biomimetics, engineering imitating

This is an interesting area. In matters of "systems integration"
nature with its million year "product development cycle" is way
ahead of anything we do in engineering. E.g. a blade of grass is an
integrated tubular structural support system, a fluid transport
system and a chemical reactor, all extremely tightly integrated. On
the other hand, there are many elements of design where the
teachings of nature's inventions can be adapted by engineers, as in
Velcro, gecko feet and the distributed vision system of
brittlestars. About many such things I learned from the book by M.J.
French "Invention and Evolution: Design in Nature and Engineering"
(Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Over the last three years a team at Bath University has compiled a
database of 2500 of biological patents (the term suggesting that
nature is the patent holder), with plans to collect ten times that
number with the contributions of an online community. The URL for
that database given in The Economist,
<http://www.bath.ac.uk/~ensab/TRIZ/> is probably pretty heavily
loaded these days.

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