1. 1 Introduction
  2. 2 Carbon
  3. 3 Water
  4. 4 Materials
  5. 5 Energy Conversion & Storage
  6. 6 Optics & Photonics
  7. 7 Thermoregulation
  8. 8 Fluid Dynamics
  9. 9 Data & Computing
  10. 10 Systems
  11. 11 Appendix

Tapping Into Nature

The Future of Energy, Innovation, and Business

By tapping into billions of years of research and development, innovative companies are abstracting strategies from the natural world and developing truly transformative technologies. Organisms have flourished on Earth for nearly 4 billion years, continuously adapting to our planet’s diverse environments and diffuse energy flows. Tapping into Nature explores how pioneering companies are leveraging these adaptations and demonstrates the vast and largely untapped market potential of bioinspired innovation.

In this paper, Terrapin explores nine cross-sector topics and selects natural strategies related to each. The biological strategies represent only a fraction of the designs found in nature. Each section then presents bioinspired products—some of which are Terrapin collaborations—that have been developed by companies using these strategies. All told, this set of strategies and products begins to convey the breadth of innovation in the natural world.

The infographic “Market Readiness of Bioinspired Innovations” showcases over 100 examples of bioinspired technologies, ranging from early concepts to profitable commercial products. The broader economic and environmental potential of this rapidly growing field is detailed in “Bioinspired Innovation: An Economic Engine.” By tracing the path from biology to commercialized technologies, we hope to inspire you to tap into nature at your organization.

“I’m not trying to imitate nature;
I’m trying to find the principles she’s using.”

R. Buckminster Fuller, 1972

(Buckminster Fuller to Children of Earth)

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, for sponsoring this document. We owe Miriam Pye and Dana Levy a large debt of gratitude for championing this work. The authors would also like to thank the Review Committee for their valuable contributions and the Affari Project for developing the online version of this document. Additionally, we are grateful to Joe Coussan and Natalie Mault Mead for their editorial assistance. The opinions and conclusions in this report are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NYSERDA, the reviewers, or editors.

Co-Authors

Cas Smith Terrapin Bright Green

Allison Bernett Terrapin Bright Green

Eleanor Sadik-Khan Terrapin Bright Green

Erika Hanson Terrapin Bright Green

Chris Garvin Managing Partner, Terrapin Bright Green

Review Committee

Nathaniel Cady Associate Professor, SUNY Polytechnic Institute

Mark Dorfman Biomimicry 3.8

Jamie Dwyer Biomimicry 3.8

Paolo Gaudiano CEO, Infomous, Inc.

Jay Harman CEO, PAX Scientific

Tim Hoffman Managing Director, Watts Capital/NYSERDA EIR

Mathias Kolle Assistant Professor, MIT

Sandra Meier Senior Project Manager, NYSERDA

Pat Sapinsley CEO, Watt Not LLC/Build Efficiently LLC

Abraham Stroock Associate Professor, Cornell University

Jiandi Wan Assistant Professor, RIT

Contributors

Cathy Gallagher Fermanian Business & Economic Insitute

Dieter Mauerman Fermanian Business & Economic Insitute

Lynn Reaser Fermanian Business & Economic Insitute

William Browning Terrapin Bright Green

Catie Ryan Terrapin Bright Green

Chris Starkey Terrapin Bright Green

Jonce Walker Terrapin Bright Green

Nearly all living things rely on diffuse and transient flows of energy and materials. And yet, life thrives. Organisms are able to procure materials and assemble themselves—essentially constructing “technologies”—using only the resources that are locally available.

Increasingly, innovative companies are looking to the living world for inspiration and direction. Nature provides a rich yet largely unexplored library of technologies that process and manage information, materials, and energy.1 Abstracting ideas from this catalogue opens the way to technological breakthroughs and profitable innovation that are often unattainable using conventional approaches to product design and development.

“Bioinspired innovation,” a term used throughout this paper, encompasses two distinct categories. One of them, bioutilization, is the use of organisms or biological materials to fulfill a human need. The other, biomimicry, is the abstraction and translation of biological principles into human-made technology; it is also a method of assessing whether a design concept is likely to “create conditions conducive to life.”2 The terms are related yet distinct. Either approach can be implemented in a way that benefits society and the environment.

Copyright: Umberto Salvagnin / Flickr

Bee communication within hives inspired Encycle’s Swarm Logic systems that cut the peak energy demand of building heating and cooling systems (see Data & Computing).

Blueprints for Innovation

Life can be thought of as a long-running research and development program that has yielded invaluable design ideas. Long before human beings began tinkering in labs, organisms had developed carbon capture and sequestration systems, water harvesting techniques, water transport systems, adhesives, colorfast materials, electronic circuits, distributed energy conversion systems, color displays, light absorbers, insulation, thermal dissipators, and information storage, along with countless other designs. All of these are blueprints for technologies that are not only useful to society but are also integral to the global economy. Companies that learn from nature are increasing revenues, mitigating risk, reducing costs, and supporting the development of a sustainable society.

To understand how the biological world works—how it builds material, creates form, and constructs intricate systems—is to understand the inherent physical constraints of our planet. Organisms have operated within these rules for nearly 4 billion years, and human technology operates using the same rulebook.3 Through bioinspired innovation, companies can not only discover design ideas in nature but also emulate nature by embedding sustainability into the development of new products and processes. By doing so, businesses can begin to see environmental challenges such as climate change as opportunities rather than economic risks.

Accelerating Innovation

A flurry of innovation occurred in the twentieth century that had a positive, transformative effect on economies and societies.4 Today, however, many companies and private investors develop and invest in “widgets [and] irrelevances” that neither produce healthy returns nor address pressing societal needs.5 To develop the world-changing and profitable innovations of tomorrow, companies and investors need new sources of ideas.

Harvard Business School’s Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter recently said that before innovation proves successful, it is merely “somebody’s wild idea that competes with every other wild idea.”6 Indeed, technological innovation is an exercise in risk. Many businesses attempt to innovate by reformulating their existing products or emulating a competitor’s product. However, these avenues often only provide incremental value to both businesses and society, not transformative breakthroughs.

Creating an entirely new product category that alters or creates markets (so-called “disruptive innovation”) requires insightful strategy, serendipity, or both. Bioinspired innovation offers a real opportunity for companies to create products and processes inspired by proven designs: the attributes of organisms that perpetuate in nature because they solve particular challenges.

Companies that leverage bioinspired innovation can increase revenues, reduce costs, and meet global needs. They can also increase their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) rating, attracting investments from the $45 trillion managed by firms supporting this trend in financial markets.7,8 By looking outside the bounds of their traditional disciplines, companies are able to transform markets and increase returns.

Copyright: USFWS Pacific Region / Flickr

The sequestration of carbon by corals inspired Blue Planet’s cement additives made from waste CO2 streams (see Carbon).

Bioinspired Innovations

At Terrapin, we believe that natural systems offer solutions to industrial challenges. We believe that bioinspired innovation transforms businesses and industries, improves quality of life, and enhances the natural environment. This paper is a product of our experience developing bioinspired technologies and a testament to the potential we see in a bioinspired approach to research and development.

Terrapin works with companies, academic researchers, and governmental organizations to transition biologically-inspired technology into the market. Among our services, we:

  • introduce organizations to the biomimetic design process through presentations, case studies, and brainstorming workshops,
  • provide biological research,
  • evaluate technologies,
  • partner with teams to co-develop technologies,
  • advise on market needs and marketing language,
  • connect research teams with strategic partners, and
  • assist teams in securing funding for projects.

Market Readiness of Bioinspired Innovations

The infographic below displays select bioinspired innovations, ranging from early concepts to fully commercialized products. These innovations are sorted according to the paper’s cross-sector topics and connected to the various industries they influence. While many innovations are already commercially available, many more are in development and have the potential to create or disrupt markets. Several of Terrapin’s collaborations are indicated by hexagons.hexagon-02.


Market Readiness of Bioinspired Innovations

Topics

Tap to Open

Carbon

Swipe
Concept
  • Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
    Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
    Dr. Colin Freeman, University of Sheffield

    Some organisms control calcite deposition to build complex structures like eggs–a process that could inspire precise ceramic manufacturing techniques.P1

    Advanced Materials Arts & Entertainment Cement & Concrete
  • Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Dr. Peter Dinolfo

    Terrapin assisted Dr. Dinolfo at RPI in securing funds for research that evaluates the rate and efficacy of an inexpensive catalyst. The catalyst mimics the water-splitting complex in plants and is used in artificial photosynthetic devices, zinc-air batteries, and other oxidation-dependent systems.P2

    Chemical Manufacturing Oil & Gas Optics & Imaging Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Transportation Utilities
  • Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Dr. Jiandi Wan, RIT

    Dr. Wan at RIT is developing a leaf-mimicking microfluidic device to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products like methane and methanol. Terrapin helped secure funding for this project.P3

    Chemical Manufacturing Oil & Gas Optics & Imaging Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Transportation Utilities
  • Photosynthetic Foam
    Photosynthetic Foam
    Dr. David Wendell, University of Cincinnati

    Inspired by the tungara frog, which produces long-lasting foam nests, engineers at the University of Cincinnati developed a stable foam from one of the frog’s proteins and combined it with photosynthetic enzymes that convert CO2 to sugars and oxygen.P4

    Advanced Materials Oil & Gas Power Generation, Distribution & Storage
Prototype
  • Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
    Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
    Dr. Jim Spain, Georgia Tech

    Scientists at Georgia Tech patented the use of biological enzymes that break down harmful carbon compounds into valuable chemicals.P5

    Biotechnology Chemical Manufacturing Waste Management
Development
  • Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Ltd.

    California-based Blue Planet synthesizes cement additives and other green building materials from waste carbon flue streams to make carbon-negative concrete. Terrapin is working with Blue Planet to identify potential demonstration sites in New York State.P6

    Building Construction Cement & Concrete Chemical Manufacturing Mining Paints & Adhesives
In Market
  • BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Products

    Headquartered in California, BioWorld sells mixes of specialized bacteria that break down hydrocarbons into less harmful chemicals. These products are authorized by the EPA for use on oil spills.P7

    Biotechnology Oil & Gas Waste Management Water Treatment
  • Converge® Polyols
    Converge® Polyols
    Novomer

    Novomer took inspiration from photosynthetic organisms and developed a process that sequesters carbon by converting waste CO2 and CO into useful chemical polymers.P8

    Chemical Manufacturing Household Goods Oil & Gas Plastic Products

Water

Swipe
Concept
  • Cactus-Inspired Fog Harvesting
    Cactus-Inspired Fog Harvesting
    Dr. Jie Ju & Dr. Hao Bai, Chinese Academy of Sciences

    The spines of the cactus Opuntia microdasys have specialized structures that can collect and funnel fog droplets into its base, prompting interest in fog harvesting devices that mimic the spines’ structures.P96

    Agriculture Water Treatment
Prototype
  • Passive Fluid Transport
    Passive Fluid Transport
    Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

    With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

    Advanced Materials Agriculture Building Systems Food Manufacturing Glass Products HVAC & Refrigeration Utilities
  • Termite Humidity Damping Device
    Termite Humidity Damping Device
    Terrapin Bright Green; Dr. Rupert Soar, Freeform Construction Ltd.; Dr. Scott Turner, SUNY-ESF

    In collaboration with Terrapin Bright Green, Dr. Rupert Soar and Dr. Scott Turner are developing a passive humidity damping device based on the fungal combs in termite mounds. The device will stabilize humidity in building spaces, reducing a building’s energy demands.P97

    Building Systems HVAC & Refrigeration
Development
  • NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc.

    NBD Nano is developing a novel hydrophobic coating inspired by the Namibian Desert Beetle’s shell. This coating for condensing tubes in power plants increases heat transfer rate by 200%, and has applications in other industrial processes, thermal desalination, and fog harvesting. NBD Nano is moving into large scale pilot testing.P40

    Advanced Materials Agriculture HVAC & Refrigeration Industrial Machinery Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Water Treatment
  • Seawater Greenhouse
    Seawater Greenhouse
    Seawater Greenhouses Ltd. and Sundrop Farms Pty. Ltd.

    Inspired by the way the Namib beetle collects water from fog, Seawater Greenhouses use cold seawater, air movement and solar radiation to condense and collect fresh water for crops.P99

    Agriculture Chemical Manufacturing Water Treatment
  • Fog Harvesting Mesh
    Fog Harvesting Mesh
    MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

    Researchers at MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile have designed specialized fog mesh nets that condense and capture 10% of the water in fog, a strategy inspired by how some Chilean organisms collect water from fog.P98

    Agriculture Food Manufacturing Water Treatment
In Market
  • Aquaporin Inside™
    Aquaporin Inside™
    Aquaporin A/S

    Aquaporin A/S is pilot testing a membrane system embedded with biological water channels that can filter water using 80% less energy than conventional processes.P100

    Biotechnology Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Water Treatment
  • Biolytix®
    Biolytix®
    Biolytix

    Biolytix markets a household wastewater treatment system that relies on worms and other organisms to filter water and break down sewage. The system uses no toxic chemicals and 90% less energy than conventional aerated sewage treatment systems.P101

    Waste Management Water Treatment

Materials

Swipe
Concept
  • Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Dr. Chris Nomura, SUNY-ESF

    Dr. Nomura at SUNY-ESF is producing low-embodied energy, keratin‐inspired polymers to be used as crosslinking agents in resins and coatings, replacing petroleum‐derived crosslinkers. Terrapin worked with the research team to find applications for the technology and secure funding.P47

    Chemical Manufacturing Oil & Gas Plastic Products
  • Nacre-Inspired Deformable Glass
    Nacre-Inspired Deformable Glass
    Dr. Francois Barthelat, McGill University

    Inspired by the microscopic structure of nacre and teeth, researchers at McGill University developed deformable glass that is 200 times tougher than standard glass due to a pattern of micro-cracks.P48

    Advanced Materials Glass Products
  • Bacteria-Inspired Adhesive
    Bacteria-Inspired Adhesive
    Dr. Jay Tang, Brown University

    The bacterium Caulobacter crescentus produces a biodegradable, waterproof adhesive with greater strain resistance than commercial super glues. Dr. Jay Tang at Brown University believes that mimicking its chemistry could yield a nontoxic glue that adheres underwater.P44

    Advanced Materials
  • Spider Silk Fibers
    Spider Silk Fibers
    Multiple Researchers

    Spider silk has high tensile strength, extensibility and toughness compared to synthetic fibers like Kevlar and nylon. Researchers are investigating how to produce similar fibers for extremely strong threads, cords, and cables.P45

    Advanced Materials Fibers & Filaments
  • Whale Pacemaker
    Whale Pacemaker
    Jorge Reynolds Pombo

    Contractions in humpback whale hearts are controlled by nano-fibers that conduct electrical signals through an otherwise non-conductive grease coating the heart. Mimicking this concept using carbon nanowires could lead to a new type of pacemaker.P46

    Biotechnology Electronics Fibers & Filaments Healthcare Pharmaceuticals
Prototype
  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Advanced Materials Biotechnology Fibers & Filaments Healthcare Pharmaceuticals Plastic Products Telecommunication Textiles & Apparel
  • BioKnit Shoes
    BioKnit Shoes
    Ammo Liao Design

    Similar to the strategy seen in many organisms where a limited number of substances are specifically used to produce materials with diverse mechanical properties, the shoe’s manufacturing process uses a single material to create a recyclable shoe that features varying levels of softness, strength, and flexibility.P108

    Advanced Materials Fibers & Filaments Textiles & Apparel
  • Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
    Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
    Achim Menges, University of Stuttgart

    Taking inspiration from the material-efficient structures of organisms like sand dollars, architect Achim Menges constructed a bubble-like pavilion using interlocking timber panels.P55

    Arts & Entertainment Building Construction Wood Products
  • Modern Meadow Meat
    Modern Meadow Meat
    Modern Meadow, Inc.

    Modern Meadow is using tissue engineering techniques that prompt animal cells to grow into muscle tissue for meat. This system provides an alternative to environmentally-destructive animal farming.P56

    Agriculture Biotechnology Food Manufacturing
  • Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Dr. Jeffrey Karp, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

    Researchers at the Karp Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a sandcastle worm-inspired surgical glue that sets while inside organs.P57

    Biotechnology Healthcare Paints & Adhesives Pharmaceuticals
  • Biofilm-Based Technology
    Biofilm-Based Technology
    Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

    Advanced Materials Biotechnology Chemical Manufacturing Electronics Optics & Imaging Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Waste Management
  • Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Dr. Geoff Coates, Cornell University

    At Cornell University, Dr. Geoff Coates is developing an enzyme-like catalyst to synthesize biodegradable polyesters produced using significantly less energy than conventional polyester. Terrapin worked closely with Dr. Coates to develop research proposals and secure funding.P51

    Chemical Manufacturing Oil & Gas Plastic Products
  • Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Dr. Anil Netravali, Cornell University

    With assistance from Terrapin, Cornell researcher Dr. Anil Netravali is developing a superhydrophobic coating for high voltage power lines that reduces ice buildup, electrical outages, and costly infrastructure damage during winter storms.P52

    Advanced Materials Chemical Manufacturing Paints & Adhesives Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Utilities
  • Mussel-Inspired Adhesive
    Mussel-Inspired Adhesive
    Dr. Rich Gross, SyntheZyme

    At RPI, Dr. Rich Gross is synthesizing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly bioadhesives designed by mimicking the chemical and mechanistic features of marine mussels’ byssal threads. Terrapin worked with Dr. Gross to differentiate his technology from competitors and secure funding.P53

    Advanced Materials Paints & Adhesives
  • Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Dr. Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester

    Dr. Chunlei Guo at University of Rochester uses laser processing to produce superwicking materials that enable more efficient air conditioning. Terrapin worked with Dr. Guo to define the market value of his technology and secure funding.P54

    Advanced Materials Building Systems HVAC & Refrigeration Metal Manufacturing Plastic Products
Development
  • Mango Materials
    Mango Materials
    Mango Materials

    Using waste methane as a feedstock, Mango Materials grows bacteria that naturally produce a biopolymer. This economically competitive material can be used to create biodegradable plastic as well as conventional products like electronic casings, bottles, and children’s toys.P105

    Advanced Materials Biotechnology Chemical Manufacturing Oil & Gas Plastic Products Waste Management
  • Engineered Silk
    Engineered Silk
    Bolt Threads

    Inspired by spider silk, Bolt Threads spins yeast-produced proteins into silk. These fibers–made from water, sugar, and salts–can provide garments and fabrics with greater durability and strength.P103

    Advanced Materials Biotechnology Chemical Manufacturing Fibers & Filaments Textiles & Apparel
  • Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
    Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
    Ceralink, Inc.

    R&D firm Ceralink uses laminated object manufacturing, a rapid prototyping technique, to replicate bioinspired structures for use in clean energy applications. Terrapin worked with Ceralink to secure early-stage funding.P61

    Advanced Materials Industrial Machinery Power Generation, Distribution & Storage
  • Biocement™ Bricks
    Biocement™ Bricks
    bioMASON

    Combining sand, bacteria, nutrients, a nitrogen source, a calcium source, and water, biotech startup bioMASON “grows” bricks by leveraging the bacteria’s metabolic activities, which cause calcium carbonate to cement the sand together without firing.P58

    Advanced Materials Biotechnology Building Construction Cement & Concrete
  • Modern Meadow Leather
    Modern Meadow Leather
    Modern Meadow, Inc.

    Biotech startup Modern Meadow uses advanced tissue engineering techniques to make lab-grown leather that is analogous to leather produced from animals.P59

    Agriculture Biotechnology Textiles & Apparel
  • SLIPS
    SLIPS
    SLIPS Technologies, Inc.

    Inspired by the slippery surface of the pitcher plant, this microscopic coating has applications in anti-fouling, heat exchange, and rapid defrosting. SLIPS Technologies was launched in 2014 after incubation at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.P60

    Advanced Materials Glass Products Healthcare Paints & Adhesives
  • Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Nature Inspired Industries; Dr. David Kisailus (UC Riverside)

    The developers of this highly impact-resistant composite material—inspired by the hard club of the Mantis shrimp—received an acquisition offer that provided initial seed investors a 10x return in only 18 months.P49

    Advanced Materials Cement & Concrete Fibers & Filaments Paints & Adhesives Plastic Products
In Market
  • GreenShield
    GreenShield
    BigSky Technologies

    This nanoparticle-based textile finish, inspired by plant leaves, allows water droplets to roll off fabric, carrying along dirt and other particles to create a self-cleaning effect.P107

    Advanced Materials Fibers & Filaments Household Goods Textiles & Apparel
  • Hairprint
    Hairprint
    Hairprint; Warner Babcock Institute

    This hair treatment, currently designed for brown or black hair, restores gray hair to its former color. The technology mimics the hair pigmentation process and uses the natural pigment eumelanin that dictates hair color.P102

    Healthcare Household Goods Pharmaceuticals
  • Mother Dirt™
    Mother Dirt™
    AOBiome

    This body spray contains ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that convert the urea and ammonia in sweat—which is abrasive to the skin, causing acne and irritation—into nitrite, which fights most bad bacteria, and nitric oxide, which has anti-inflammatory properties. The novel spray reduces a user’s dependence on soap, deodorant, and moisturizer, and replenishes the skin biome killed by modern hygiene products.P89

    Biotechnology Healthcare Household Goods Pharmaceuticals
  • Interface® Carpet
    Interface® Carpet
    Interface, Inc.

    Global carpet manufacturer Interface developed modular carpet tiles with patterns that can be laid down randomly, without glue, mimicking variegated leaves on a forest floor.P66

    Household Goods Textiles & Apparel
  • StoCoat Lotusan®
    StoCoat Lotusan®
    Sto Corp.

    Building products manufacturer Sto Corp. developed a hydrophobic acrylic paint that mimics the self-cleaning properties of the lotus leaf.P67

    Advanced Materials Paints & Adhesives
  • PureBond®
    PureBond®
    Columbia Forest Products

    Developed by Columbia Forest Products, this soy-based glue mimics mussel adhesive. The North American panel manufacturer uses PureBond to laminate plywood without added formaldehyde.P68

    Chemical Manufacturing Paints & Adhesives Wood Products
  • VELCRO® Fasteners
    VELCRO® Fasteners
    Velcro Industries

    This ubiquitous fastener was inspired by the miniature hooks on seed burrs that allow them to cling to looped fabric.P69

    Textiles & Apparel
  • Mushroom® Materials
    Mushroom® Materials
    Ecovative

    Ecovative grows mycelium in molds filled with agricultural waste. The fungi bind the waste fibers together into a solid mass, which is heat treated to produce a biodegradable alternative to harmful synthetic packaging and other products.P62

    Advanced Materials Agriculture Biotechnology Building Construction Plastic Products Waste Management
  • Naturally-Synthesized Film Developer
    Naturally-Synthesized Film Developer
    Warner Babcock Institute

    The Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry synthesized a film development chemical using a bioinspired process that is safer, uses less energy, and reduces waste compared to conventional chemical synthesis.P63

    Chemical Manufacturing Paints & Adhesives
  • Sharklet™
    Sharklet™
    Sharklet Technologies, Inc.

    Sharklet™ surface textures are used on products like medical devices, furniture, and cell phone cases. The plastic coatings have microscopic patterns inspired by sharkskin that repel bacteria without perpetuating antibiotic resistance.P64

    Advanced Materials Healthcare Paints & Adhesives Plastic Products
  • WikiPearls™
    WikiPearls™
    WikiFoods, Inc.

    Inspired by fruit and vegetable peels, WikiPearls™, developed by WikiFoods, Inc., seal food and beverages in bite-sized, edible “wrappers” that obviate plastic packaging.P65

    Advanced Materials Food Manufacturing Waste Management

Energy Conversion & Storage

Swipe
Concept
  • Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Dr. Art Stipanovic, SUNY-ESF

    Terrapin helped secure early funding for research by Dr. Stipanovic at SUNY-ESF. He aims to isolate the digestive enzymes of Red Pandas – which efficiently convert biomass to fermentable sugarsfor use in biofuel production.P27

    Agriculture Biotechnology Oil & Gas Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Waste Management
  • Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Cambrian Innovation

    The prestin protein in animal ears converts vibrations into electrical signals. IntAct Labs, now Cambrian Innovation, embedded prestin proteins into “skins” that generate electricity from movement and wind.P26

    Advanced Materials Building Systems Electronics Power Generation, Distribution & Storage
Prototype
  • bioSTREAM™ Power
    bioSTREAM™ Power
    BioPower Systems

    BioPower Systems in Australia is developing fishtail-inspired modules that generate power from tidal currents. The fin of each module pivots relative to the direction of the current, creating a swimming motion that generates an electric current.P29

    Electronics Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Utilities
  • Electric Eel BattCell
    Electric Eel BattCell
    Advanced Biomimetic Sensors, Inc.

    Advanced Biomimetic Sensors claims that their patented BattCell prototype, inspired by the electric eel, uses a biomimetic membrane to enhance its power density beyond other fuel cell technologies.P28

    Advanced Materials Electronics Power Generation, Distribution & Storage
Development
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Chemical Manufacturing Food Manufacturing HVAC & Refrigeration Oil & Gas Paints & Adhesives Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Transportation Water Treatment
  • BioWAVE™ Power
    BioWAVE™ Power
    BioPower Systems

    bioWAVE™, a wave energy generator developed by BioPower Systems, mimics the motion of ocean vegetation. The swaying motion generates power through a unique hydraulic system undergoing testing in a 250 kW demonstration project.P31

    Industrial Machinery Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Utilities
  • Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Energy

    Ohio-based Pilus Energy, a subsidiary of Tauriga Sciences, is currently pilot testing its microbial fuel cell technology. As modified bacteria break down organics in wastewater, they produce electricity, treated water, and useful chemical compounds.P32

    Biotechnology Chemical Manufacturing Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Water Treatment
In Market
  • Voltaic Pile
    Voltaic Pile
    Alessandro Volta

    Studies of the electric Torpedo ray and frog leg nerve responses led Alessandro Volta to build the first battery, the Voltaic pile, by stacking metal and salt-soaked discs in a similar arrangement to the discs within the fish’s electric organ.P33

    Chemical Manufacturing Electronics Power Generation, Distribution & Storage

Optics & Photonics

Swipe
Concept
  • Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
    Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
    Dr. Yasha Yi-a, City University of New York

    Researchers found that a radial microstructure inspired by moth eyes increases light extraction of X-ray machine scintillators. This finding may enable lower dose radiation for imaging patients.P72

    Advanced Materials Healthcare Optics & Imaging
  • Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Dr. Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University

    Highly fracture-resistant sea sponge spinacles could inspire tougher optical glass fibers manufactured at room temperature.P70

    Advanced Materials Glass Products Lighting Optics & Imaging Telecommunication
  • Spider Web-Based Optoelectronics
    Spider Web-Based Optoelectronics
    Dr. Jinwei Gao, South China Normal University

    Metallized spider webs perform better than standard optoelectronic arrays and can be stretched without losing performance. This finding by several academic teams paves the way to next-generation flexible touch screens.P71

    Electronics Optics & Imaging
Prototype
  • Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
    Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
    Dr. Seung-Yop Lee and Dr. Jungyul Park, Sogang University

    Scientists at Sogang University have developed a microporous material inspired by the shell of the Hercules beetle that changes color in response to humidity levels. This material could be used in a low-power humidity sensor.P73

    Advanced Materials Electronics Optics & Imaging
  • Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
    Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
    Dr. Roger Hanlon, Marine Biological Laboratory

    Inspired by cephalopods, researchers at the Eugene Bell Center in Massachusetts are creating electronic-sensing and color changing sheets. These optical materials may be used in low-power electronic displays.P74

    Advanced Materials Electronics Optics & Imaging
  • Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
    Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
    Dr. Mathias Kolle, MIT

    After studying the photonic properties of the Margaritaria nobilius seed, researchers at MIT developed fibers that change color when stretched.P75

    Advanced Materials Fibers & Filaments Optics & Imaging
Development
  • Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Dr. Radislav Potyrailo, GE Global Research

    GE Global Research is using Morpho butterfly wing scale microstructures as inspiration for small, highly sensitive infrared sensors.P76

    Advanced Materials Building Systems Data Centers Optics & Imaging
In Market
  • ORNILUX Glass
    ORNILUX Glass
    Arnold Glas

    After studying how birds in flight avoid spider webs, the European glass manufacturer Arnold Glas commercialized ORNILUX, a spider web-patterned UV reflective glass that reduces bird collisions by 77%.P81

    Building Systems Glass Products
  • Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
    Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
    Multiple Researchers

    Anti-reflective films inspired by the moth eye’s microstructure improve solar panel photo absorption by 5 to 10%.P80

    Advanced Materials Glass Products Power Generation, Distribution & Storage
  • IRLens™
    IRLens™
    Schaefer Ventilation

    Schaefer Ventilation’s HotZone® Radiant Heaters rely on a lobster eye-inspired lens that focuses infrared radiation, heating a concentrated area instead of diffusing heat like standard radiant heaters.P79

    Building Systems HVAC & Refrigeration Lighting
  • ChromaFlair® Paint
    ChromaFlair® Paint
    JDSU

    JDSU, a manufacturer based in California, makes brilliant, color-shifting paints that use the thin-film interference phenomenon found in butterfly wings and seashells. The company’s ChromaFlair® paint is used on cars, sports equipment, and building interiors.P77

    Advanced Materials Arts & Entertainment Paints & Adhesives
  • Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
    Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
    Dyesol

    Dyesol’s dye-sensitized solar cells, which mimic the electron transport chain in photosynthesis, are printed on thin, flexible plastic using non-toxic, low-energy manufacturing.P78

    Advanced Materials Paints & Adhesives Power Generation, Distribution & Storage

Thermoregulation

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Concept
  • Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
    Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
    Multiple Researchers

    Studying how tardigrades and other organisms undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, could lead to better preservation of organs for transplant.P90

    Biotechnology Food Manufacturing Healthcare
Prototype
  • Vascular Window Cooling
    Vascular Window Cooling
    Benjamen Hatton, Wyss Institute

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created windows with microfluidic channels patterned like vascular circulatory systems.P91

    Building Systems Glass Products HVAC & Refrigeration
Development
  • Capillary-Cooled Injection Molds
    Capillary-Cooled Injection Molds
    Harbec, Inc.

    Plastics manufacturer Harbec is incorporating internal cooling channels in its molds, mimicking natural flow patterns, such as vascular systems, to remove thermal energy more effectively. This will result in reduced cooling time, reduced power consumption, improved turn-around time, and increased production speed.P92

    Industrial Machinery Plastic Products
In Market
  • HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    Nova Laboratories Ltd.

    “Dry” vaccines, created by Nova Laboratories in the U.K., do not require refrigeration. The active materials are encased in a sugar matrix, a technique inspired by organisms that undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation.P93

    Healthcare HVAC & Refrigeration Pharmaceuticals Warehouse & Distribution
  • SampleMatrix®
    SampleMatrix®
    Biomatrica, Inc.

    The California-based company Biomatrica developed processes akin to anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, to stabilize fragile biological materials like DNA so they can be stored without refrigeration.P94

    Healthcare HVAC & Refrigeration Pharmaceuticals Warehouse & Distribution
  • Arctic Fish-Inspired Ice Cream
    Arctic Fish-Inspired Ice Cream
    Unilever

    Unilever developed a creamier, low-fat ice cream by adding an ice-structuring protein adopted from an arctic fish. The protein prevents large ice crystals from forming.P95

    Food Manufacturing

Fluid Dynamics

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Concept
  • Jellyfish Jet Propulsion
    Jellyfish Jet Propulsion
    Dr. John Dabiri, CalTech

    According to a research team at Caltech, jellyfish-inspired pulsed jet propulsion could be 50% more efficient that existing steady-jet propulsion.P37

    Oil & Gas Transportation
  • Cactus-Inspired High-Rises
    Cactus-Inspired High-Rises
    Dr. Chris Letchford, RPI

    Inspired by the saguaro cactus, Dr. Letchford at RPI is studying the aerodynamics of vertically-grooved, slender cylinders to define optimal geometries for reduced wind loading on tall buildings.P34

    Building Construction
  • Snake-Inspired Flight
    Snake-Inspired Flight
    Dr. Jake Socha, Virginia Tech

    The tree snake Chrysopelea glides from tree to tree by flattening its body and swaying in the air. DARPA funded research on Chrysopelea for possible military applications.P35

    Transportation
  • “V” Formation Flight
    “V” Formation Flight
    Dr. Ilan Kroo, Stanford University

    When moving through fluids, objects in a “V” formation expend less energy than solo objects.P36

    Oil & Gas Transportation
Prototype
  • RoboClam Excavator
    RoboClam Excavator
    Dr. Anette Hosoi, MIT

    A team at MIT constructed a prototype robotic excavator inspired by the low-drag burrowing of Atlantic razor clams. The excavator could be used for reversible ocean anchoring, subsea cable installation, and ocean sensor placement.P38

    Mining Oil & Gas Transportation
Development
  • Schooling Fish Wind Farms
    Schooling Fish Wind Farms
    Dr. John Dabiri, CalTech

    Engineers at Caltech developed algorithms inspired by schooling fish that decrease the amount of space required for vertical axis wind farms without compromising individual turbine efficiency.P39

    Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Utilities
In Market
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    Building Systems Data Centers Electronics Food Manufacturing Healthcare HVAC & Refrigeration Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Transportation Utilities Water Treatment
  • Tubercle Technology™
    Tubercle Technology™
    WhalePower

    Inspired by the tubercles found on whale fins, WhalePower developed blades with bumps along the leading edges that allow for very high stall angles. Envira-North Systems in Ontario applied the technology to their high volume, low speed Altra-Air fan.P41

    Building Systems Data Centers HVAC & Refrigeration Power Generation, Distribution & Storage
  • 500-Series Shinkasen Train
    500-Series Shinkasen Train
    Eiji Nakatsu

    The Japanese bullet train has a pointed nose inspired by the kingfisher’s beak that reduces noise and power consumption while increasing speed.P42

    Industrial Machinery Transportation
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    Building Systems Chemical Manufacturing Data Centers Electronics Food Manufacturing HVAC & Refrigeration Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Water Treatment

Data & Computing

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Concept
  • Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
    Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
    Dr. Corey Noone, MIT

    Fibonacci spirals are a naturally-occurring strategy for packing many units together efficiently. Engineers at MIT have modeled a Fibonacci sequence for reflectors in concentrated solar plants, creating an arrangement that would theoretically reduce land use by 20%.P12

    Optics & Imaging Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Utilities
  • Locust Collision Avoidance
    Locust Collision Avoidance
    Volvo Car Group

    Volvo is investigating how to incorporate the unique collision avoidance abilities of swarming locusts into crash avoidance sensors for cars.P13

    Industrial Machinery Software Transportation
  • Bat-Nav System
    Bat-Nav System
    Dr. Arseny Finklestein, Weizmann Institute of Science

    Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that bats track their positions in three dimensions using a donut-shaped coordinate system, which could inspire a new navigation system.P9

    Electronics Software Transportation
  • DNA-Based Computing
    DNA-Based Computing
    Multiple Researchers

    DNA-based computers could theoretically use chemical base pairs as “switches.” This would enable a much more space-efficient, non-toxic form of computing that would pack the computing power of the most powerful supercomputer into a drop of water.P10

    Data Centers Electronics Software Telecommunication
  • Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
    Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
    Multiple Researchers

    Trigger hairs inside the leaf of the carnivorous Venus flytrap act like electrical switches; when two are stimulated by an insect, the leaf closes. Such switches could inspire electrical devices made from abundant, non-toxic chemicals.P11

    Advanced Materials Biotechnology Electronics
Prototype
  • Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Dr. Shantanu Chakrabartty, Michigan State University

    Engineers at Michigan State developed a sensor based on a fly’s ear that accurately detects the source of sounds using a mechanical lever system and neuronal signal processing.P16

    Advanced Materials Electronics Industrial Machinery Software Telecommunication
  • Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Multiple Researchers

    Compound insect eyes can detect movement much faster than traditional cameras. This capacity has inspired novel vision sensors for aerial systems, robotics, high-speed inspection in manufacturing, and other applications.P17

    Electronics Optics & Imaging Software Utilities
  • DNA Data Storage
    DNA Data Storage
    Dr. George Church, Harvard University

    Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute coded 700 terabytes of data into less than one gram of DNA. The scientists believe that with further improvements, all the world’s data (1.8 zettabytes) could theoretically be stored in about 4 grams of DNA.P15

    Advanced Materials Data Centers Electronics Software
  • Autonomous Swarm Robots
    Autonomous Swarm Robots
    Dr. Radhika Nagpal, Harvard University

    Autonomous robot swarms, developed by researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, organize themselves into complex shapes using swarm intelligence—a method of computation inspired by swarming organisms like ants, bees, birds, and bacteria.P14

    Electronics Industrial Machinery Software
Development
  • Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
    Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
    Nu Tech Software Solutions, Inc.

    Bios Group, now NuTech Solutions, studied ant foraging to develop a logistics algorithm for industrial supplier Air Liquide. Air Liquide uses the algorithm to manage plant scheduling, weather, and deliveries, which has yielded substantial time and cost savings.P20

    Software Transportation Warehouse & Distribution
  • Honey Bee Web Hosting
    Honey Bee Web Hosting
    Dr. Craig Tovey, Georgia Tech

    Researchers at Georgia Tech developed an internet server system that adapts to user demand the way bees adapt to changing food sources: by communicating the new locations back to the hive. The system increased one web hosting company’s revenues by 20%.P18

    Data Centers Software Telecommunication
  • Artificial Immune System Software
    Artificial Immune System Software
    Multiple Researchers

    Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

    Building Systems Data Centers Electronics Financial Services Healthcare Industrial Machinery Software
  • Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
    Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
    NASA

    NASA contractors compared designs for a spacecraft antenna, one of which was developed using an evolutionary algorithm and the other using conventional engineering. The former outperformed the latter in functionality and reduced design time.P22

    Broadcast Electronics Industrial Machinery
  • IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM, Cornell Tech

    Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

    Data Centers Electronics Healthcare Optics & Imaging Software Telecommunication Transportation
In Market
  • OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    Altair

    Inspired by the way bones grow, software developer Altair created structural analysis software that uses an evolutionary algorithm to find the optimum shape for components, reducing weight and materials without compromising strength.P24

    Building Construction Metal Manufacturing Plastic Products Software Transportation
  • Swarm Logic™
    Swarm Logic™
    Encycle

    Inspired by bee communication, Encycle’s Swarm Logic™ systems reduce a building’s energy draw, especially during peak hours, by using individual wireless controllers that coordinate when HVAC units power on.P25

    HVAC & Refrigeration Software Utilities
  • Ant-Based Plane Guidance
    Ant-Based Plane Guidance
    Southwest Airlines

    Southwest Airlines developed an ant-inspired computing algorithm that drastically reduces the amount of time planes wait for gates to open at airports.P23

    Software Transportation Warehouse & Distribution

Systems

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Concept
  • Sahara Forest Project
    Sahara Forest Project
    Exploration Architecture

    The Sahara Forest Project, proposed by British firm Exploration Architecture, combines evaporation from Seawater Greenhouses (see Water) with excess heat from adjacent concentrated solar plants in order to create moist microclimates that curb desertification.P82

    Agriculture Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Waste Management
Prototype
  • Cardboard to Caviar
    Cardboard to Caviar
    Graham Wiles

    This closed-loop recycling scheme uses waste products like cardboard from restaurants to make products like caviar from farmed sturgeon. The concept could be replicated with other interrelated products to reduce waste and save energy and money.P83

    Agriculture Food Manufacturing Waste Management
Development
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Agriculture Building Construction Building Systems Food Manufacturing Healthcare Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Utilities Warehouse & Distribution Water Treatment
  • Biomimetic Investing
    Biomimetic Investing
    Honeybee Capital

    Katherine Collins of Honeybee Capital proposed an investing framework that uses biological principles to encourage resilient, regenerative, and profitable investing activities.P84

    Financial Services
In Market
  • Aquaponic Systems
    Aquaponic Systems
    Multiple Companies

    Hydroponics and fish farming are combined based on the symbiotic flow of nutrients between the fish and plants. Fish waste provides nutrients to the plants, which filter the water for the fish.P86

    Agriculture Waste Management Water Treatment
  • Eco-Machine®
    Eco-Machine®
    John Todd Ecological Design

    John Todd Ecological Design uses constructed wetlands and aquatic tanks containing various microbes, plants, and aquatic animals to filter wastewater.P87

    Agriculture Waste Management Water Treatment
  • Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Symbiosis

    In Kalundborg, Denmark, over 16 industrial facilities and farms in close proximity exchange materials and energy. One plant’s waste becomes another’s raw material, saving about $15 million a year.P88

    Power Generation, Distribution & Storage Utilities Warehouse & Distribution Waste Management Water Treatment

Industries

Tap to Open

Advanced Materials

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  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Prototype
  • BioKnit Shoes
    BioKnit Shoes
    Ammo Liao Design

    Similar to the strategy seen in many organisms where a limited number of substances are specifically used to produce materials with diverse mechanical properties, the shoe’s manufacturing process uses a single material to create a recyclable shoe that features varying levels of softness, strength, and flexibility.P108

    Prototype
  • GreenShield
    GreenShield
    BigSky Technologies

    This nanoparticle-based textile finish, inspired by plant leaves, allows water droplets to roll off fabric, carrying along dirt and other particles to create a self-cleaning effect.P107

    In Market
  • Mango Materials
    Mango Materials
    Mango Materials

    Using waste methane as a feedstock, Mango Materials grows bacteria that naturally produce a biopolymer. This economically competitive material can be used to create biodegradable plastic as well as conventional products like electronic casings, bottles, and children’s toys.P105

    Development
  • Passive Fluid Transport
    Passive Fluid Transport
    Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

    With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

    Prototype
  • Engineered Silk
    Engineered Silk
    Bolt Threads

    Inspired by spider silk, Bolt Threads spins yeast-produced proteins into silk. These fibers–made from water, sugar, and salts–can provide garments and fabrics with greater durability and strength.P103

    Development
  • NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc.

    NBD Nano is developing a novel hydrophobic coating inspired by the Namibian Desert Beetle’s shell. This coating for condensing tubes in power plants increases heat transfer rate by 200%, and has applications in other industrial processes, thermal desalination, and fog harvesting. NBD Nano is moving into large scale pilot testing.P40

    Development
  • Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Dr. Shantanu Chakrabartty, Michigan State University

    Engineers at Michigan State developed a sensor based on a fly’s ear that accurately detects the source of sounds using a mechanical lever system and neuronal signal processing.P16

    Prototype
  • DNA Data Storage
    DNA Data Storage
    Dr. George Church, Harvard University

    Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute coded 700 terabytes of data into less than one gram of DNA. The scientists believe that with further improvements, all the world’s data (1.8 zettabytes) could theoretically be stored in about 4 grams of DNA.P15

    Prototype
  • Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
    Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
    Multiple Researchers

    Anti-reflective films inspired by the moth eye’s microstructure improve solar panel photo absorption by 5 to 10%.P80

    In Market
  • ChromaFlair® Paint
    ChromaFlair® Paint
    JDSU

    JDSU, a manufacturer based in California, makes brilliant, color-shifting paints that use the thin-film interference phenomenon found in butterfly wings and seashells. The company’s ChromaFlair® paint is used on cars, sports equipment, and building interiors.P77

    In Market
  • Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
    Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
    Dyesol

    Dyesol’s dye-sensitized solar cells, which mimic the electron transport chain in photosynthesis, are printed on thin, flexible plastic using non-toxic, low-energy manufacturing.P78

    In Market
  • Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Dr. Radislav Potyrailo, GE Global Research

    GE Global Research is using Morpho butterfly wing scale microstructures as inspiration for small, highly sensitive infrared sensors.P76

    Development
  • Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
    Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
    Dr. Seung-Yop Lee and Dr. Jungyul Park, Sogang University

    Scientists at Sogang University have developed a microporous material inspired by the shell of the Hercules beetle that changes color in response to humidity levels. This material could be used in a low-power humidity sensor.P73

    Prototype
  • Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
    Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
    Dr. Roger Hanlon, Marine Biological Laboratory

    Inspired by cephalopods, researchers at the Eugene Bell Center in Massachusetts are creating electronic-sensing and color changing sheets. These optical materials may be used in low-power electronic displays.P74

    Prototype
  • Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
    Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
    Dr. Mathias Kolle, MIT

    After studying the photonic properties of the Margaritaria nobilius seed, researchers at MIT developed fibers that change color when stretched.P75

    Prototype
  • Electric Eel BattCell
    Electric Eel BattCell
    Advanced Biomimetic Sensors, Inc.

    Advanced Biomimetic Sensors claims that their patented BattCell prototype, inspired by the electric eel, uses a biomimetic membrane to enhance its power density beyond other fuel cell technologies.P28

    Prototype
  • StoCoat Lotusan®
    StoCoat Lotusan®
    Sto Corp.

    Building products manufacturer Sto Corp. developed a hydrophobic acrylic paint that mimics the self-cleaning properties of the lotus leaf.P67

    In Market
  • Mushroom® Materials
    Mushroom® Materials
    Ecovative

    Ecovative grows mycelium in molds filled with agricultural waste. The fungi bind the waste fibers together into a solid mass, which is heat treated to produce a biodegradable alternative to harmful synthetic packaging and other products.P62

    In Market
  • Sharklet™
    Sharklet™
    Sharklet Technologies, Inc.

    Sharklet™ surface textures are used on products like medical devices, furniture, and cell phone cases. The plastic coatings have microscopic patterns inspired by sharkskin that repel bacteria without perpetuating antibiotic resistance.P64

    In Market
  • WikiPearls™
    WikiPearls™
    WikiFoods, Inc.

    Inspired by fruit and vegetable peels, WikiPearls™, developed by WikiFoods, Inc., seal food and beverages in bite-sized, edible “wrappers” that obviate plastic packaging.P65

    In Market
  • Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
    Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
    Ceralink, Inc.

    R&D firm Ceralink uses laminated object manufacturing, a rapid prototyping technique, to replicate bioinspired structures for use in clean energy applications. Terrapin worked with Ceralink to secure early-stage funding.P61

    Development
  • Biocement™ Bricks
    Biocement™ Bricks
    bioMASON

    Combining sand, bacteria, nutrients, a nitrogen source, a calcium source, and water, biotech startup bioMASON “grows” bricks by leveraging the bacteria’s metabolic activities, which cause calcium carbonate to cement the sand together without firing.P58

    Development
  • SLIPS
    SLIPS
    SLIPS Technologies, Inc.

    Inspired by the slippery surface of the pitcher plant, this microscopic coating has applications in anti-fouling, heat exchange, and rapid defrosting. SLIPS Technologies was launched in 2014 after incubation at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.P60

    Development
  • Biofilm-Based Technology
    Biofilm-Based Technology
    Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

    Prototype
  • Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Dr. Anil Netravali, Cornell University

    With assistance from Terrapin, Cornell researcher Dr. Anil Netravali is developing a superhydrophobic coating for high voltage power lines that reduces ice buildup, electrical outages, and costly infrastructure damage during winter storms.P52

    Prototype
  • Mussel-Inspired Adhesive
    Mussel-Inspired Adhesive
    Dr. Rich Gross, SyntheZyme

    At RPI, Dr. Rich Gross is synthesizing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly bioadhesives designed by mimicking the chemical and mechanistic features of marine mussels’ byssal threads. Terrapin worked with Dr. Gross to differentiate his technology from competitors and secure funding.P53

    Prototype
  • Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Dr. Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester

    Dr. Chunlei Guo at University of Rochester uses laser processing to produce superwicking materials that enable more efficient air conditioning. Terrapin worked with Dr. Guo to define the market value of his technology and secure funding.P54

    Prototype
  • Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
    Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
    Multiple Researchers

    Trigger hairs inside the leaf of the carnivorous Venus flytrap act like electrical switches; when two are stimulated by an insect, the leaf closes. Such switches could inspire electrical devices made from abundant, non-toxic chemicals.P11

    Concept
  • Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
    Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
    Dr. Yasha Yi-a, City University of New York

    Researchers found that a radial microstructure inspired by moth eyes increases light extraction of X-ray machine scintillators. This finding may enable lower dose radiation for imaging patients.P72

    Concept
  • Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Dr. Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University

    Highly fracture-resistant sea sponge spinacles could inspire tougher optical glass fibers manufactured at room temperature.P70

    Concept
  • Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Cambrian Innovation

    The prestin protein in animal ears converts vibrations into electrical signals. IntAct Labs, now Cambrian Innovation, embedded prestin proteins into “skins” that generate electricity from movement and wind.P26

    Concept
  • Nacre-Inspired Deformable Glass
    Nacre-Inspired Deformable Glass
    Dr. Francois Barthelat, McGill University

    Inspired by the microscopic structure of nacre and teeth, researchers at McGill University developed deformable glass that is 200 times tougher than standard glass due to a pattern of micro-cracks.P48

    Concept
  • Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Nature Inspired Industries; Dr. David Kisailus (UC Riverside)

    The developers of this highly impact-resistant composite material—inspired by the hard club of the Mantis shrimp—received an acquisition offer that provided initial seed investors a 10x return in only 18 months.P49

    Development
  • Bacteria-Inspired Adhesive
    Bacteria-Inspired Adhesive
    Dr. Jay Tang, Brown University

    The bacterium Caulobacter crescentus produces a biodegradable, waterproof adhesive with greater strain resistance than commercial super glues. Dr. Jay Tang at Brown University believes that mimicking its chemistry could yield a nontoxic glue that adheres underwater.P44

    Concept
  • Spider Silk Fibers
    Spider Silk Fibers
    Multiple Researchers

    Spider silk has high tensile strength, extensibility and toughness compared to synthetic fibers like Kevlar and nylon. Researchers are investigating how to produce similar fibers for extremely strong threads, cords, and cables.P45

    Concept
  • Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
    Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
    Dr. Colin Freeman, University of Sheffield

    Some organisms control calcite deposition to build complex structures like eggs–a process that could inspire precise ceramic manufacturing techniques.P1

    Concept
  • Photosynthetic Foam
    Photosynthetic Foam
    Dr. David Wendell, University of Cincinnati

    Inspired by the tungara frog, which produces long-lasting foam nests, engineers at the University of Cincinnati developed a stable foam from one of the frog’s proteins and combined it with photosynthetic enzymes that convert CO2 to sugars and oxygen.P4

    Concept

Agriculture

Swipe
  • Passive Fluid Transport
    Passive Fluid Transport
    Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

    With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

    Prototype
  • NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc.

    NBD Nano is developing a novel hydrophobic coating inspired by the Namibian Desert Beetle’s shell. This coating for condensing tubes in power plants increases heat transfer rate by 200%, and has applications in other industrial processes, thermal desalination, and fog harvesting. NBD Nano is moving into large scale pilot testing.P40

    Development
  • Aquaponic Systems
    Aquaponic Systems
    Multiple Companies

    Hydroponics and fish farming are combined based on the symbiotic flow of nutrients between the fish and plants. Fish waste provides nutrients to the plants, which filter the water for the fish.P86

    In Market
  • Eco-Machine®
    Eco-Machine®
    John Todd Ecological Design

    John Todd Ecological Design uses constructed wetlands and aquatic tanks containing various microbes, plants, and aquatic animals to filter wastewater.P87

    In Market
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Cardboard to Caviar
    Cardboard to Caviar
    Graham Wiles

    This closed-loop recycling scheme uses waste products like cardboard from restaurants to make products like caviar from farmed sturgeon. The concept could be replicated with other interrelated products to reduce waste and save energy and money.P83

    Prototype
  • Mushroom® Materials
    Mushroom® Materials
    Ecovative

    Ecovative grows mycelium in molds filled with agricultural waste. The fungi bind the waste fibers together into a solid mass, which is heat treated to produce a biodegradable alternative to harmful synthetic packaging and other products.P62

    In Market
  • Modern Meadow Leather
    Modern Meadow Leather
    Modern Meadow, Inc.

    Biotech startup Modern Meadow uses advanced tissue engineering techniques to make lab-grown leather that is analogous to leather produced from animals.P59

    Development
  • Modern Meadow Meat
    Modern Meadow Meat
    Modern Meadow, Inc.

    Modern Meadow is using tissue engineering techniques that prompt animal cells to grow into muscle tissue for meat. This system provides an alternative to environmentally-destructive animal farming.P56

    Prototype
  • Seawater Greenhouse
    Seawater Greenhouse
    Seawater Greenhouses Ltd. and Sundrop Farms Pty. Ltd.

    Inspired by the way the Namib beetle collects water from fog, Seawater Greenhouses use cold seawater, air movement and solar radiation to condense and collect fresh water for crops.P99

    Development
  • Fog Harvesting Mesh
    Fog Harvesting Mesh
    MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

    Researchers at MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile have designed specialized fog mesh nets that condense and capture 10% of the water in fog, a strategy inspired by how some Chilean organisms collect water from fog.P98

    Development
  • Sahara Forest Project
    Sahara Forest Project
    Exploration Architecture

    The Sahara Forest Project, proposed by British firm Exploration Architecture, combines evaporation from Seawater Greenhouses (see Water) with excess heat from adjacent concentrated solar plants in order to create moist microclimates that curb desertification.P82

    Concept
  • Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Dr. Art Stipanovic, SUNY-ESF

    Terrapin helped secure early funding for research by Dr. Stipanovic at SUNY-ESF. He aims to isolate the digestive enzymes of Red Pandas – which efficiently convert biomass to fermentable sugarsfor use in biofuel production.P27

    Concept
  • Cactus-Inspired Fog Harvesting
    Cactus-Inspired Fog Harvesting
    Dr. Jie Ju & Dr. Hao Bai, Chinese Academy of Sciences

    The spines of the cactus Opuntia microdasys have specialized structures that can collect and funnel fog droplets into its base, prompting interest in fog harvesting devices that mimic the spines’ structures.P96

    Concept

Arts & Entertainment

Swipe
  • ChromaFlair® Paint
    ChromaFlair® Paint
    JDSU

    JDSU, a manufacturer based in California, makes brilliant, color-shifting paints that use the thin-film interference phenomenon found in butterfly wings and seashells. The company’s ChromaFlair® paint is used on cars, sports equipment, and building interiors.P77

    In Market
  • Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
    Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
    Achim Menges, University of Stuttgart

    Taking inspiration from the material-efficient structures of organisms like sand dollars, architect Achim Menges constructed a bubble-like pavilion using interlocking timber panels.P55

    Prototype
  • Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
    Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
    Dr. Colin Freeman, University of Sheffield

    Some organisms control calcite deposition to build complex structures like eggs–a process that could inspire precise ceramic manufacturing techniques.P1

    Concept

Biotechnology

Swipe
  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Prototype
  • Mango Materials
    Mango Materials
    Mango Materials

    Using waste methane as a feedstock, Mango Materials grows bacteria that naturally produce a biopolymer. This economically competitive material can be used to create biodegradable plastic as well as conventional products like electronic casings, bottles, and children’s toys.P105

    Development
  • Engineered Silk
    Engineered Silk
    Bolt Threads

    Inspired by spider silk, Bolt Threads spins yeast-produced proteins into silk. These fibers–made from water, sugar, and salts–can provide garments and fabrics with greater durability and strength.P103

    Development
  • Mother Dirt™
    Mother Dirt™
    AOBiome

    This body spray contains ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that convert the urea and ammonia in sweat—which is abrasive to the skin, causing acne and irritation—into nitrite, which fights most bad bacteria, and nitric oxide, which has anti-inflammatory properties. The novel spray reduces a user’s dependence on soap, deodorant, and moisturizer, and replenishes the skin biome killed by modern hygiene products.P89

    In Market
  • Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Energy

    Ohio-based Pilus Energy, a subsidiary of Tauriga Sciences, is currently pilot testing its microbial fuel cell technology. As modified bacteria break down organics in wastewater, they produce electricity, treated water, and useful chemical compounds.P32

    Development
  • Mushroom® Materials
    Mushroom® Materials
    Ecovative

    Ecovative grows mycelium in molds filled with agricultural waste. The fungi bind the waste fibers together into a solid mass, which is heat treated to produce a biodegradable alternative to harmful synthetic packaging and other products.P62

    In Market
  • Biocement™ Bricks
    Biocement™ Bricks
    bioMASON

    Combining sand, bacteria, nutrients, a nitrogen source, a calcium source, and water, biotech startup bioMASON “grows” bricks by leveraging the bacteria’s metabolic activities, which cause calcium carbonate to cement the sand together without firing.P58

    Development
  • Modern Meadow Leather
    Modern Meadow Leather
    Modern Meadow, Inc.

    Biotech startup Modern Meadow uses advanced tissue engineering techniques to make lab-grown leather that is analogous to leather produced from animals.P59

    Development
  • Modern Meadow Meat
    Modern Meadow Meat
    Modern Meadow, Inc.

    Modern Meadow is using tissue engineering techniques that prompt animal cells to grow into muscle tissue for meat. This system provides an alternative to environmentally-destructive animal farming.P56

    Prototype
  • Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Dr. Jeffrey Karp, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

    Researchers at the Karp Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a sandcastle worm-inspired surgical glue that sets while inside organs.P57

    Prototype
  • Biofilm-Based Technology
    Biofilm-Based Technology
    Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

    Prototype
  • Aquaporin Inside™
    Aquaporin Inside™
    Aquaporin A/S

    Aquaporin A/S is pilot testing a membrane system embedded with biological water channels that can filter water using 80% less energy than conventional processes.P100

    In Market
  • BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Products

    Headquartered in California, BioWorld sells mixes of specialized bacteria that break down hydrocarbons into less harmful chemicals. These products are authorized by the EPA for use on oil spills.P7

    In Market
  • Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
    Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
    Multiple Researchers

    Trigger hairs inside the leaf of the carnivorous Venus flytrap act like electrical switches; when two are stimulated by an insect, the leaf closes. Such switches could inspire electrical devices made from abundant, non-toxic chemicals.P11

    Concept
  • Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
    Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
    Multiple Researchers

    Studying how tardigrades and other organisms undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, could lead to better preservation of organs for transplant.P90

    Concept
  • Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Dr. Art Stipanovic, SUNY-ESF

    Terrapin helped secure early funding for research by Dr. Stipanovic at SUNY-ESF. He aims to isolate the digestive enzymes of Red Pandas – which efficiently convert biomass to fermentable sugarsfor use in biofuel production.P27

    Concept
  • Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
    Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
    Dr. Jim Spain, Georgia Tech

    Scientists at Georgia Tech patented the use of biological enzymes that break down harmful carbon compounds into valuable chemicals.P5

    Prototype
  • Whale Pacemaker
    Whale Pacemaker
    Jorge Reynolds Pombo

    Contractions in humpback whale hearts are controlled by nano-fibers that conduct electrical signals through an otherwise non-conductive grease coating the heart. Mimicking this concept using carbon nanowires could lead to a new type of pacemaker.P46

    Concept

Broadcast

Swipe
  • Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
    Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
    NASA

    NASA contractors compared designs for a spacecraft antenna, one of which was developed using an evolutionary algorithm and the other using conventional engineering. The former outperformed the latter in functionality and reduced design time.P22

    Development

Building Construction

Swipe
  • OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    Altair

    Inspired by the way bones grow, software developer Altair created structural analysis software that uses an evolutionary algorithm to find the optimum shape for components, reducing weight and materials without compromising strength.P24

    In Market
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Mushroom® Materials
    Mushroom® Materials
    Ecovative

    Ecovative grows mycelium in molds filled with agricultural waste. The fungi bind the waste fibers together into a solid mass, which is heat treated to produce a biodegradable alternative to harmful synthetic packaging and other products.P62

    In Market
  • Biocement™ Bricks
    Biocement™ Bricks
    bioMASON

    Combining sand, bacteria, nutrients, a nitrogen source, a calcium source, and water, biotech startup bioMASON “grows” bricks by leveraging the bacteria’s metabolic activities, which cause calcium carbonate to cement the sand together without firing.P58

    Development
  • Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
    Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
    Achim Menges, University of Stuttgart

    Taking inspiration from the material-efficient structures of organisms like sand dollars, architect Achim Menges constructed a bubble-like pavilion using interlocking timber panels.P55

    Prototype
  • Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Ltd.

    California-based Blue Planet synthesizes cement additives and other green building materials from waste carbon flue streams to make carbon-negative concrete. Terrapin is working with Blue Planet to identify potential demonstration sites in New York State.P6

    Development
  • Cactus-Inspired High-Rises
    Cactus-Inspired High-Rises
    Dr. Chris Letchford, RPI

    Inspired by the saguaro cactus, Dr. Letchford at RPI is studying the aerodynamics of vertically-grooved, slender cylinders to define optimal geometries for reduced wind loading on tall buildings.P34

    Concept

Building Systems

Swipe
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • Passive Fluid Transport
    Passive Fluid Transport
    Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

    With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

    Prototype
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Artificial Immune System Software
    Artificial Immune System Software
    Multiple Researchers

    Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

    Development
  • Tubercle Technology™
    Tubercle Technology™
    WhalePower

    Inspired by the tubercles found on whale fins, WhalePower developed blades with bumps along the leading edges that allow for very high stall angles. Envira-North Systems in Ontario applied the technology to their high volume, low speed Altra-Air fan.P41

    In Market
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    In Market
  • Vascular Window Cooling
    Vascular Window Cooling
    Benjamen Hatton, Wyss Institute

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created windows with microfluidic channels patterned like vascular circulatory systems.P91

    Prototype
  • ORNILUX Glass
    ORNILUX Glass
    Arnold Glas

    After studying how birds in flight avoid spider webs, the European glass manufacturer Arnold Glas commercialized ORNILUX, a spider web-patterned UV reflective glass that reduces bird collisions by 77%.P81

    In Market
  • IRLens™
    IRLens™
    Schaefer Ventilation

    Schaefer Ventilation’s HotZone® Radiant Heaters rely on a lobster eye-inspired lens that focuses infrared radiation, heating a concentrated area instead of diffusing heat like standard radiant heaters.P79

    In Market
  • Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Dr. Radislav Potyrailo, GE Global Research

    GE Global Research is using Morpho butterfly wing scale microstructures as inspiration for small, highly sensitive infrared sensors.P76

    Development
  • Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Dr. Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester

    Dr. Chunlei Guo at University of Rochester uses laser processing to produce superwicking materials that enable more efficient air conditioning. Terrapin worked with Dr. Guo to define the market value of his technology and secure funding.P54

    Prototype
  • Termite Humidity Damping Device
    Termite Humidity Damping Device
    Terrapin Bright Green; Dr. Rupert Soar, Freeform Construction Ltd.; Dr. Scott Turner, SUNY-ESF

    In collaboration with Terrapin Bright Green, Dr. Rupert Soar and Dr. Scott Turner are developing a passive humidity damping device based on the fungal combs in termite mounds. The device will stabilize humidity in building spaces, reducing a building’s energy demands.P97

    Prototype
  • Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Cambrian Innovation

    The prestin protein in animal ears converts vibrations into electrical signals. IntAct Labs, now Cambrian Innovation, embedded prestin proteins into “skins” that generate electricity from movement and wind.P26

    Concept

Cement & Concrete

Swipe
  • Biocement™ Bricks
    Biocement™ Bricks
    bioMASON

    Combining sand, bacteria, nutrients, a nitrogen source, a calcium source, and water, biotech startup bioMASON “grows” bricks by leveraging the bacteria’s metabolic activities, which cause calcium carbonate to cement the sand together without firing.P58

    Development
  • Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Ltd.

    California-based Blue Planet synthesizes cement additives and other green building materials from waste carbon flue streams to make carbon-negative concrete. Terrapin is working with Blue Planet to identify potential demonstration sites in New York State.P6

    Development
  • Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Nature Inspired Industries; Dr. David Kisailus (UC Riverside)

    The developers of this highly impact-resistant composite material—inspired by the hard club of the Mantis shrimp—received an acquisition offer that provided initial seed investors a 10x return in only 18 months.P49

    Development
  • Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
    Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
    Dr. Colin Freeman, University of Sheffield

    Some organisms control calcite deposition to build complex structures like eggs–a process that could inspire precise ceramic manufacturing techniques.P1

    Concept

Chemical Manufacturing

Swipe
  • Mango Materials
    Mango Materials
    Mango Materials

    Using waste methane as a feedstock, Mango Materials grows bacteria that naturally produce a biopolymer. This economically competitive material can be used to create biodegradable plastic as well as conventional products like electronic casings, bottles, and children’s toys.P105

    Development
  • Engineered Silk
    Engineered Silk
    Bolt Threads

    Inspired by spider silk, Bolt Threads spins yeast-produced proteins into silk. These fibers–made from water, sugar, and salts–can provide garments and fabrics with greater durability and strength.P103

    Development
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    In Market
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Development
  • Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Energy

    Ohio-based Pilus Energy, a subsidiary of Tauriga Sciences, is currently pilot testing its microbial fuel cell technology. As modified bacteria break down organics in wastewater, they produce electricity, treated water, and useful chemical compounds.P32

    Development
  • PureBond®
    PureBond®
    Columbia Forest Products

    Developed by Columbia Forest Products, this soy-based glue mimics mussel adhesive. The North American panel manufacturer uses PureBond to laminate plywood without added formaldehyde.P68

    In Market
  • Naturally-Synthesized Film Developer
    Naturally-Synthesized Film Developer
    Warner Babcock Institute

    The Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry synthesized a film development chemical using a bioinspired process that is safer, uses less energy, and reduces waste compared to conventional chemical synthesis.P63

    In Market
  • Voltaic Pile
    Voltaic Pile
    Alessandro Volta

    Studies of the electric Torpedo ray and frog leg nerve responses led Alessandro Volta to build the first battery, the Voltaic pile, by stacking metal and salt-soaked discs in a similar arrangement to the discs within the fish’s electric organ.P33

    In Market
  • Biofilm-Based Technology
    Biofilm-Based Technology
    Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

    Prototype
  • Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Dr. Geoff Coates, Cornell University

    At Cornell University, Dr. Geoff Coates is developing an enzyme-like catalyst to synthesize biodegradable polyesters produced using significantly less energy than conventional polyester. Terrapin worked closely with Dr. Coates to develop research proposals and secure funding.P51

    Prototype
  • Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Dr. Anil Netravali, Cornell University

    With assistance from Terrapin, Cornell researcher Dr. Anil Netravali is developing a superhydrophobic coating for high voltage power lines that reduces ice buildup, electrical outages, and costly infrastructure damage during winter storms.P52

    Prototype
  • Seawater Greenhouse
    Seawater Greenhouse
    Seawater Greenhouses Ltd. and Sundrop Farms Pty. Ltd.

    Inspired by the way the Namib beetle collects water from fog, Seawater Greenhouses use cold seawater, air movement and solar radiation to condense and collect fresh water for crops.P99

    Development
  • Converge® Polyols
    Converge® Polyols
    Novomer

    Novomer took inspiration from photosynthetic organisms and developed a process that sequesters carbon by converting waste CO2 and CO into useful chemical polymers.P8

    In Market
  • Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Ltd.

    California-based Blue Planet synthesizes cement additives and other green building materials from waste carbon flue streams to make carbon-negative concrete. Terrapin is working with Blue Planet to identify potential demonstration sites in New York State.P6

    Development
  • Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
    Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
    Dr. Jim Spain, Georgia Tech

    Scientists at Georgia Tech patented the use of biological enzymes that break down harmful carbon compounds into valuable chemicals.P5

    Prototype
  • Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Dr. Chris Nomura, SUNY-ESF

    Dr. Nomura at SUNY-ESF is producing low-embodied energy, keratin‐inspired polymers to be used as crosslinking agents in resins and coatings, replacing petroleum‐derived crosslinkers. Terrapin worked with the research team to find applications for the technology and secure funding.P47

    Concept
  • Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Dr. Peter Dinolfo

    Terrapin assisted Dr. Dinolfo at RPI in securing funds for research that evaluates the rate and efficacy of an inexpensive catalyst. The catalyst mimics the water-splitting complex in plants and is used in artificial photosynthetic devices, zinc-air batteries, and other oxidation-dependent systems.P2

    Concept
  • Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Dr. Jiandi Wan, RIT

    Dr. Wan at RIT is developing a leaf-mimicking microfluidic device to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products like methane and methanol. Terrapin helped secure funding for this project.P3

    Concept

Data Centers

Swipe
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • Honey Bee Web Hosting
    Honey Bee Web Hosting
    Dr. Craig Tovey, Georgia Tech

    Researchers at Georgia Tech developed an internet server system that adapts to user demand the way bees adapt to changing food sources: by communicating the new locations back to the hive. The system increased one web hosting company’s revenues by 20%.P18

    Development
  • Artificial Immune System Software
    Artificial Immune System Software
    Multiple Researchers

    Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

    Development
  • IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM, Cornell Tech

    Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

    Development
  • DNA Data Storage
    DNA Data Storage
    Dr. George Church, Harvard University

    Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute coded 700 terabytes of data into less than one gram of DNA. The scientists believe that with further improvements, all the world’s data (1.8 zettabytes) could theoretically be stored in about 4 grams of DNA.P15

    Prototype
  • Tubercle Technology™
    Tubercle Technology™
    WhalePower

    Inspired by the tubercles found on whale fins, WhalePower developed blades with bumps along the leading edges that allow for very high stall angles. Envira-North Systems in Ontario applied the technology to their high volume, low speed Altra-Air fan.P41

    In Market
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    In Market
  • Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Dr. Radislav Potyrailo, GE Global Research

    GE Global Research is using Morpho butterfly wing scale microstructures as inspiration for small, highly sensitive infrared sensors.P76

    Development
  • DNA-Based Computing
    DNA-Based Computing
    Multiple Researchers

    DNA-based computers could theoretically use chemical base pairs as “switches.” This would enable a much more space-efficient, non-toxic form of computing that would pack the computing power of the most powerful supercomputer into a drop of water.P10

    Concept

Electronics

Swipe
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • Artificial Immune System Software
    Artificial Immune System Software
    Multiple Researchers

    Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

    Development
  • Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
    Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
    NASA

    NASA contractors compared designs for a spacecraft antenna, one of which was developed using an evolutionary algorithm and the other using conventional engineering. The former outperformed the latter in functionality and reduced design time.P22

    Development
  • IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM, Cornell Tech

    Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

    Development
  • Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Dr. Shantanu Chakrabartty, Michigan State University

    Engineers at Michigan State developed a sensor based on a fly’s ear that accurately detects the source of sounds using a mechanical lever system and neuronal signal processing.P16

    Prototype
  • Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Multiple Researchers

    Compound insect eyes can detect movement much faster than traditional cameras. This capacity has inspired novel vision sensors for aerial systems, robotics, high-speed inspection in manufacturing, and other applications.P17

    Prototype
  • DNA Data Storage
    DNA Data Storage
    Dr. George Church, Harvard University

    Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute coded 700 terabytes of data into less than one gram of DNA. The scientists believe that with further improvements, all the world’s data (1.8 zettabytes) could theoretically be stored in about 4 grams of DNA.P15

    Prototype
  • Autonomous Swarm Robots
    Autonomous Swarm Robots
    Dr. Radhika Nagpal, Harvard University

    Autonomous robot swarms, developed by researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, organize themselves into complex shapes using swarm intelligence—a method of computation inspired by swarming organisms like ants, bees, birds, and bacteria.P14

    Prototype
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    In Market
  • Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
    Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
    Dr. Seung-Yop Lee and Dr. Jungyul Park, Sogang University

    Scientists at Sogang University have developed a microporous material inspired by the shell of the Hercules beetle that changes color in response to humidity levels. This material could be used in a low-power humidity sensor.P73

    Prototype
  • Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
    Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
    Dr. Roger Hanlon, Marine Biological Laboratory

    Inspired by cephalopods, researchers at the Eugene Bell Center in Massachusetts are creating electronic-sensing and color changing sheets. These optical materials may be used in low-power electronic displays.P74

    Prototype
  • bioSTREAM™ Power
    bioSTREAM™ Power
    BioPower Systems

    BioPower Systems in Australia is developing fishtail-inspired modules that generate power from tidal currents. The fin of each module pivots relative to the direction of the current, creating a swimming motion that generates an electric current.P29

    Prototype
  • Electric Eel BattCell
    Electric Eel BattCell
    Advanced Biomimetic Sensors, Inc.

    Advanced Biomimetic Sensors claims that their patented BattCell prototype, inspired by the electric eel, uses a biomimetic membrane to enhance its power density beyond other fuel cell technologies.P28

    Prototype
  • Voltaic Pile
    Voltaic Pile
    Alessandro Volta

    Studies of the electric Torpedo ray and frog leg nerve responses led Alessandro Volta to build the first battery, the Voltaic pile, by stacking metal and salt-soaked discs in a similar arrangement to the discs within the fish’s electric organ.P33

    In Market
  • Biofilm-Based Technology
    Biofilm-Based Technology
    Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

    Prototype
  • Bat-Nav System
    Bat-Nav System
    Dr. Arseny Finklestein, Weizmann Institute of Science

    Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that bats track their positions in three dimensions using a donut-shaped coordinate system, which could inspire a new navigation system.P9

    Concept
  • DNA-Based Computing
    DNA-Based Computing
    Multiple Researchers

    DNA-based computers could theoretically use chemical base pairs as “switches.” This would enable a much more space-efficient, non-toxic form of computing that would pack the computing power of the most powerful supercomputer into a drop of water.P10

    Concept
  • Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
    Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
    Multiple Researchers

    Trigger hairs inside the leaf of the carnivorous Venus flytrap act like electrical switches; when two are stimulated by an insect, the leaf closes. Such switches could inspire electrical devices made from abundant, non-toxic chemicals.P11

    Concept
  • Spider Web-Based Optoelectronics
    Spider Web-Based Optoelectronics
    Dr. Jinwei Gao, South China Normal University

    Metallized spider webs perform better than standard optoelectronic arrays and can be stretched without losing performance. This finding by several academic teams paves the way to next-generation flexible touch screens.P71

    Concept
  • Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Cambrian Innovation

    The prestin protein in animal ears converts vibrations into electrical signals. IntAct Labs, now Cambrian Innovation, embedded prestin proteins into “skins” that generate electricity from movement and wind.P26

    Concept
  • Whale Pacemaker
    Whale Pacemaker
    Jorge Reynolds Pombo

    Contractions in humpback whale hearts are controlled by nano-fibers that conduct electrical signals through an otherwise non-conductive grease coating the heart. Mimicking this concept using carbon nanowires could lead to a new type of pacemaker.P46

    Concept

Fibers & Filaments

Swipe
  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Prototype
  • BioKnit Shoes
    BioKnit Shoes
    Ammo Liao Design

    Similar to the strategy seen in many organisms where a limited number of substances are specifically used to produce materials with diverse mechanical properties, the shoe’s manufacturing process uses a single material to create a recyclable shoe that features varying levels of softness, strength, and flexibility.P108

    Prototype
  • GreenShield
    GreenShield
    BigSky Technologies

    This nanoparticle-based textile finish, inspired by plant leaves, allows water droplets to roll off fabric, carrying along dirt and other particles to create a self-cleaning effect.P107

    In Market
  • Engineered Silk
    Engineered Silk
    Bolt Threads

    Inspired by spider silk, Bolt Threads spins yeast-produced proteins into silk. These fibers–made from water, sugar, and salts–can provide garments and fabrics with greater durability and strength.P103

    Development
  • Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
    Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
    Dr. Mathias Kolle, MIT

    After studying the photonic properties of the Margaritaria nobilius seed, researchers at MIT developed fibers that change color when stretched.P75

    Prototype
  • Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Nature Inspired Industries; Dr. David Kisailus (UC Riverside)

    The developers of this highly impact-resistant composite material—inspired by the hard club of the Mantis shrimp—received an acquisition offer that provided initial seed investors a 10x return in only 18 months.P49

    Development
  • Spider Silk Fibers
    Spider Silk Fibers
    Multiple Researchers

    Spider silk has high tensile strength, extensibility and toughness compared to synthetic fibers like Kevlar and nylon. Researchers are investigating how to produce similar fibers for extremely strong threads, cords, and cables.P45

    Concept
  • Whale Pacemaker
    Whale Pacemaker
    Jorge Reynolds Pombo

    Contractions in humpback whale hearts are controlled by nano-fibers that conduct electrical signals through an otherwise non-conductive grease coating the heart. Mimicking this concept using carbon nanowires could lead to a new type of pacemaker.P46

    Concept

Financial Services

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  • Biomimetic Investing
    Biomimetic Investing
    Honeybee Capital

    Katherine Collins of Honeybee Capital proposed an investing framework that uses biological principles to encourage resilient, regenerative, and profitable investing activities.P84

    Development
  • Artificial Immune System Software
    Artificial Immune System Software
    Multiple Researchers

    Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

    Development

Food Manufacturing

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  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • Passive Fluid Transport
    Passive Fluid Transport
    Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

    With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

    Prototype
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Cardboard to Caviar
    Cardboard to Caviar
    Graham Wiles

    This closed-loop recycling scheme uses waste products like cardboard from restaurants to make products like caviar from farmed sturgeon. The concept could be replicated with other interrelated products to reduce waste and save energy and money.P83

    Prototype
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    In Market
  • Arctic Fish-Inspired Ice Cream
    Arctic Fish-Inspired Ice Cream
    Unilever

    Unilever developed a creamier, low-fat ice cream by adding an ice-structuring protein adopted from an arctic fish. The protein prevents large ice crystals from forming.P95

    In Market
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Development
  • WikiPearls™
    WikiPearls™
    WikiFoods, Inc.

    Inspired by fruit and vegetable peels, WikiPearls™, developed by WikiFoods, Inc., seal food and beverages in bite-sized, edible “wrappers” that obviate plastic packaging.P65

    In Market
  • Modern Meadow Meat
    Modern Meadow Meat
    Modern Meadow, Inc.

    Modern Meadow is using tissue engineering techniques that prompt animal cells to grow into muscle tissue for meat. This system provides an alternative to environmentally-destructive animal farming.P56

    Prototype
  • Fog Harvesting Mesh
    Fog Harvesting Mesh
    MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

    Researchers at MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile have designed specialized fog mesh nets that condense and capture 10% of the water in fog, a strategy inspired by how some Chilean organisms collect water from fog.P98

    Development
  • Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
    Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
    Multiple Researchers

    Studying how tardigrades and other organisms undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, could lead to better preservation of organs for transplant.P90

    Concept

Glass Products

Swipe
  • Passive Fluid Transport
    Passive Fluid Transport
    Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

    With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

    Prototype
  • Vascular Window Cooling
    Vascular Window Cooling
    Benjamen Hatton, Wyss Institute

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created windows with microfluidic channels patterned like vascular circulatory systems.P91

    Prototype
  • ORNILUX Glass
    ORNILUX Glass
    Arnold Glas

    After studying how birds in flight avoid spider webs, the European glass manufacturer Arnold Glas commercialized ORNILUX, a spider web-patterned UV reflective glass that reduces bird collisions by 77%.P81

    In Market
  • Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
    Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
    Multiple Researchers

    Anti-reflective films inspired by the moth eye’s microstructure improve solar panel photo absorption by 5 to 10%.P80

    In Market
  • SLIPS
    SLIPS
    SLIPS Technologies, Inc.

    Inspired by the slippery surface of the pitcher plant, this microscopic coating has applications in anti-fouling, heat exchange, and rapid defrosting. SLIPS Technologies was launched in 2014 after incubation at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.P60

    Development
  • Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Dr. Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University

    Highly fracture-resistant sea sponge spinacles could inspire tougher optical glass fibers manufactured at room temperature.P70

    Concept
  • Nacre-Inspired Deformable Glass
    Nacre-Inspired Deformable Glass
    Dr. Francois Barthelat, McGill University

    Inspired by the microscopic structure of nacre and teeth, researchers at McGill University developed deformable glass that is 200 times tougher than standard glass due to a pattern of micro-cracks.P48

    Concept

Healthcare

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  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Prototype
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • Hairprint
    Hairprint
    Hairprint; Warner Babcock Institute

    This hair treatment, currently designed for brown or black hair, restores gray hair to its former color. The technology mimics the hair pigmentation process and uses the natural pigment eumelanin that dictates hair color.P102

    In Market
  • Mother Dirt™
    Mother Dirt™
    AOBiome

    This body spray contains ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that convert the urea and ammonia in sweat—which is abrasive to the skin, causing acne and irritation—into nitrite, which fights most bad bacteria, and nitric oxide, which has anti-inflammatory properties. The novel spray reduces a user’s dependence on soap, deodorant, and moisturizer, and replenishes the skin biome killed by modern hygiene products.P89

    In Market
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Artificial Immune System Software
    Artificial Immune System Software
    Multiple Researchers

    Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

    Development
  • IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM, Cornell Tech

    Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

    Development
  • HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    Nova Laboratories Ltd.

    “Dry” vaccines, created by Nova Laboratories in the U.K., do not require refrigeration. The active materials are encased in a sugar matrix, a technique inspired by organisms that undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation.P93

    In Market
  • SampleMatrix®
    SampleMatrix®
    Biomatrica, Inc.

    The California-based company Biomatrica developed processes akin to anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, to stabilize fragile biological materials like DNA so they can be stored without refrigeration.P94

    In Market
  • Sharklet™
    Sharklet™
    Sharklet Technologies, Inc.

    Sharklet™ surface textures are used on products like medical devices, furniture, and cell phone cases. The plastic coatings have microscopic patterns inspired by sharkskin that repel bacteria without perpetuating antibiotic resistance.P64

    In Market
  • SLIPS
    SLIPS
    SLIPS Technologies, Inc.

    Inspired by the slippery surface of the pitcher plant, this microscopic coating has applications in anti-fouling, heat exchange, and rapid defrosting. SLIPS Technologies was launched in 2014 after incubation at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.P60

    Development
  • Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Dr. Jeffrey Karp, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

    Researchers at the Karp Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a sandcastle worm-inspired surgical glue that sets while inside organs.P57

    Prototype
  • Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
    Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
    Multiple Researchers

    Studying how tardigrades and other organisms undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, could lead to better preservation of organs for transplant.P90

    Concept
  • Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
    Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
    Dr. Yasha Yi-a, City University of New York

    Researchers found that a radial microstructure inspired by moth eyes increases light extraction of X-ray machine scintillators. This finding may enable lower dose radiation for imaging patients.P72

    Concept
  • Whale Pacemaker
    Whale Pacemaker
    Jorge Reynolds Pombo

    Contractions in humpback whale hearts are controlled by nano-fibers that conduct electrical signals through an otherwise non-conductive grease coating the heart. Mimicking this concept using carbon nanowires could lead to a new type of pacemaker.P46

    Concept

Household Goods

Swipe
  • GreenShield
    GreenShield
    BigSky Technologies

    This nanoparticle-based textile finish, inspired by plant leaves, allows water droplets to roll off fabric, carrying along dirt and other particles to create a self-cleaning effect.P107

    In Market
  • Hairprint
    Hairprint
    Hairprint; Warner Babcock Institute

    This hair treatment, currently designed for brown or black hair, restores gray hair to its former color. The technology mimics the hair pigmentation process and uses the natural pigment eumelanin that dictates hair color.P102

    In Market
  • Mother Dirt™
    Mother Dirt™
    AOBiome

    This body spray contains ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that convert the urea and ammonia in sweat—which is abrasive to the skin, causing acne and irritation—into nitrite, which fights most bad bacteria, and nitric oxide, which has anti-inflammatory properties. The novel spray reduces a user’s dependence on soap, deodorant, and moisturizer, and replenishes the skin biome killed by modern hygiene products.P89

    In Market
  • Interface® Carpet
    Interface® Carpet
    Interface, Inc.

    Global carpet manufacturer Interface developed modular carpet tiles with patterns that can be laid down randomly, without glue, mimicking variegated leaves on a forest floor.P66

    In Market
  • Converge® Polyols
    Converge® Polyols
    Novomer

    Novomer took inspiration from photosynthetic organisms and developed a process that sequesters carbon by converting waste CO2 and CO into useful chemical polymers.P8

    In Market

HVAC & Refrigeration

Swipe
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • Passive Fluid Transport
    Passive Fluid Transport
    Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

    With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

    Prototype
  • NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc.

    NBD Nano is developing a novel hydrophobic coating inspired by the Namibian Desert Beetle’s shell. This coating for condensing tubes in power plants increases heat transfer rate by 200%, and has applications in other industrial processes, thermal desalination, and fog harvesting. NBD Nano is moving into large scale pilot testing.P40

    Development
  • Swarm Logic™
    Swarm Logic™
    Encycle

    Inspired by bee communication, Encycle’s Swarm Logic™ systems reduce a building’s energy draw, especially during peak hours, by using individual wireless controllers that coordinate when HVAC units power on.P25

    In Market
  • Tubercle Technology™
    Tubercle Technology™
    WhalePower

    Inspired by the tubercles found on whale fins, WhalePower developed blades with bumps along the leading edges that allow for very high stall angles. Envira-North Systems in Ontario applied the technology to their high volume, low speed Altra-Air fan.P41

    In Market
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    In Market
  • HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    Nova Laboratories Ltd.

    “Dry” vaccines, created by Nova Laboratories in the U.K., do not require refrigeration. The active materials are encased in a sugar matrix, a technique inspired by organisms that undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation.P93

    In Market
  • SampleMatrix®
    SampleMatrix®
    Biomatrica, Inc.

    The California-based company Biomatrica developed processes akin to anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, to stabilize fragile biological materials like DNA so they can be stored without refrigeration.P94

    In Market
  • Vascular Window Cooling
    Vascular Window Cooling
    Benjamen Hatton, Wyss Institute

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created windows with microfluidic channels patterned like vascular circulatory systems.P91

    Prototype
  • IRLens™
    IRLens™
    Schaefer Ventilation

    Schaefer Ventilation’s HotZone® Radiant Heaters rely on a lobster eye-inspired lens that focuses infrared radiation, heating a concentrated area instead of diffusing heat like standard radiant heaters.P79

    In Market
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Development
  • Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Dr. Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester

    Dr. Chunlei Guo at University of Rochester uses laser processing to produce superwicking materials that enable more efficient air conditioning. Terrapin worked with Dr. Guo to define the market value of his technology and secure funding.P54

    Prototype
  • Termite Humidity Damping Device
    Termite Humidity Damping Device
    Terrapin Bright Green; Dr. Rupert Soar, Freeform Construction Ltd.; Dr. Scott Turner, SUNY-ESF

    In collaboration with Terrapin Bright Green, Dr. Rupert Soar and Dr. Scott Turner are developing a passive humidity damping device based on the fungal combs in termite mounds. The device will stabilize humidity in building spaces, reducing a building’s energy demands.P97

    Prototype

Industrial Machinery

Swipe
  • NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc.

    NBD Nano is developing a novel hydrophobic coating inspired by the Namibian Desert Beetle’s shell. This coating for condensing tubes in power plants increases heat transfer rate by 200%, and has applications in other industrial processes, thermal desalination, and fog harvesting. NBD Nano is moving into large scale pilot testing.P40

    Development
  • Artificial Immune System Software
    Artificial Immune System Software
    Multiple Researchers

    Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

    Development
  • Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
    Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
    NASA

    NASA contractors compared designs for a spacecraft antenna, one of which was developed using an evolutionary algorithm and the other using conventional engineering. The former outperformed the latter in functionality and reduced design time.P22

    Development
  • Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Dr. Shantanu Chakrabartty, Michigan State University

    Engineers at Michigan State developed a sensor based on a fly’s ear that accurately detects the source of sounds using a mechanical lever system and neuronal signal processing.P16

    Prototype
  • Autonomous Swarm Robots
    Autonomous Swarm Robots
    Dr. Radhika Nagpal, Harvard University

    Autonomous robot swarms, developed by researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, organize themselves into complex shapes using swarm intelligence—a method of computation inspired by swarming organisms like ants, bees, birds, and bacteria.P14

    Prototype
  • 500-Series Shinkasen Train
    500-Series Shinkasen Train
    Eiji Nakatsu

    The Japanese bullet train has a pointed nose inspired by the kingfisher’s beak that reduces noise and power consumption while increasing speed.P42

    In Market
  • Capillary-Cooled Injection Molds
    Capillary-Cooled Injection Molds
    Harbec, Inc.

    Plastics manufacturer Harbec is incorporating internal cooling channels in its molds, mimicking natural flow patterns, such as vascular systems, to remove thermal energy more effectively. This will result in reduced cooling time, reduced power consumption, improved turn-around time, and increased production speed.P92

    Development
  • BioWAVE™ Power
    BioWAVE™ Power
    BioPower Systems

    bioWAVE™, a wave energy generator developed by BioPower Systems, mimics the motion of ocean vegetation. The swaying motion generates power through a unique hydraulic system undergoing testing in a 250 kW demonstration project.P31

    Development
  • Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
    Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
    Ceralink, Inc.

    R&D firm Ceralink uses laminated object manufacturing, a rapid prototyping technique, to replicate bioinspired structures for use in clean energy applications. Terrapin worked with Ceralink to secure early-stage funding.P61

    Development
  • Locust Collision Avoidance
    Locust Collision Avoidance
    Volvo Car Group

    Volvo is investigating how to incorporate the unique collision avoidance abilities of swarming locusts into crash avoidance sensors for cars.P13

    Concept

Lighting

Swipe
  • IRLens™
    IRLens™
    Schaefer Ventilation

    Schaefer Ventilation’s HotZone® Radiant Heaters rely on a lobster eye-inspired lens that focuses infrared radiation, heating a concentrated area instead of diffusing heat like standard radiant heaters.P79

    In Market
  • Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Dr. Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University

    Highly fracture-resistant sea sponge spinacles could inspire tougher optical glass fibers manufactured at room temperature.P70

    Concept

Metal Manufacturing

Swipe
  • OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    Altair

    Inspired by the way bones grow, software developer Altair created structural analysis software that uses an evolutionary algorithm to find the optimum shape for components, reducing weight and materials without compromising strength.P24

    In Market
  • Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Dr. Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester

    Dr. Chunlei Guo at University of Rochester uses laser processing to produce superwicking materials that enable more efficient air conditioning. Terrapin worked with Dr. Guo to define the market value of his technology and secure funding.P54

    Prototype

Mining

Swipe
  • RoboClam Excavator
    RoboClam Excavator
    Dr. Anette Hosoi, MIT

    A team at MIT constructed a prototype robotic excavator inspired by the low-drag burrowing of Atlantic razor clams. The excavator could be used for reversible ocean anchoring, subsea cable installation, and ocean sensor placement.P38

    Prototype
  • Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Ltd.

    California-based Blue Planet synthesizes cement additives and other green building materials from waste carbon flue streams to make carbon-negative concrete. Terrapin is working with Blue Planet to identify potential demonstration sites in New York State.P6

    Development

Oil & Gas

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  • Mango Materials
    Mango Materials
    Mango Materials

    Using waste methane as a feedstock, Mango Materials grows bacteria that naturally produce a biopolymer. This economically competitive material can be used to create biodegradable plastic as well as conventional products like electronic casings, bottles, and children’s toys.P105

    Development
  • RoboClam Excavator
    RoboClam Excavator
    Dr. Anette Hosoi, MIT

    A team at MIT constructed a prototype robotic excavator inspired by the low-drag burrowing of Atlantic razor clams. The excavator could be used for reversible ocean anchoring, subsea cable installation, and ocean sensor placement.P38

    Prototype
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Development
  • Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Dr. Geoff Coates, Cornell University

    At Cornell University, Dr. Geoff Coates is developing an enzyme-like catalyst to synthesize biodegradable polyesters produced using significantly less energy than conventional polyester. Terrapin worked closely with Dr. Coates to develop research proposals and secure funding.P51

    Prototype
  • BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Products

    Headquartered in California, BioWorld sells mixes of specialized bacteria that break down hydrocarbons into less harmful chemicals. These products are authorized by the EPA for use on oil spills.P7

    In Market
  • Converge® Polyols
    Converge® Polyols
    Novomer

    Novomer took inspiration from photosynthetic organisms and developed a process that sequesters carbon by converting waste CO2 and CO into useful chemical polymers.P8

    In Market
  • Jellyfish Jet Propulsion
    Jellyfish Jet Propulsion
    Dr. John Dabiri, CalTech

    According to a research team at Caltech, jellyfish-inspired pulsed jet propulsion could be 50% more efficient that existing steady-jet propulsion.P37

    Concept
  • “V” Formation Flight
    “V” Formation Flight
    Dr. Ilan Kroo, Stanford University

    When moving through fluids, objects in a “V” formation expend less energy than solo objects.P36

    Concept
  • Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Dr. Art Stipanovic, SUNY-ESF

    Terrapin helped secure early funding for research by Dr. Stipanovic at SUNY-ESF. He aims to isolate the digestive enzymes of Red Pandas – which efficiently convert biomass to fermentable sugarsfor use in biofuel production.P27

    Concept
  • Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Dr. Chris Nomura, SUNY-ESF

    Dr. Nomura at SUNY-ESF is producing low-embodied energy, keratin‐inspired polymers to be used as crosslinking agents in resins and coatings, replacing petroleum‐derived crosslinkers. Terrapin worked with the research team to find applications for the technology and secure funding.P47

    Concept
  • Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Dr. Peter Dinolfo

    Terrapin assisted Dr. Dinolfo at RPI in securing funds for research that evaluates the rate and efficacy of an inexpensive catalyst. The catalyst mimics the water-splitting complex in plants and is used in artificial photosynthetic devices, zinc-air batteries, and other oxidation-dependent systems.P2

    Concept
  • Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Dr. Jiandi Wan, RIT

    Dr. Wan at RIT is developing a leaf-mimicking microfluidic device to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products like methane and methanol. Terrapin helped secure funding for this project.P3

    Concept
  • Photosynthetic Foam
    Photosynthetic Foam
    Dr. David Wendell, University of Cincinnati

    Inspired by the tungara frog, which produces long-lasting foam nests, engineers at the University of Cincinnati developed a stable foam from one of the frog’s proteins and combined it with photosynthetic enzymes that convert CO2 to sugars and oxygen.P4

    Concept

Optics & Imaging

Swipe
  • IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM, Cornell Tech

    Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

    Development
  • Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Multiple Researchers

    Compound insect eyes can detect movement much faster than traditional cameras. This capacity has inspired novel vision sensors for aerial systems, robotics, high-speed inspection in manufacturing, and other applications.P17

    Prototype
  • Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
    Dr. Radislav Potyrailo, GE Global Research

    GE Global Research is using Morpho butterfly wing scale microstructures as inspiration for small, highly sensitive infrared sensors.P76

    Development
  • Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
    Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
    Dr. Seung-Yop Lee and Dr. Jungyul Park, Sogang University

    Scientists at Sogang University have developed a microporous material inspired by the shell of the Hercules beetle that changes color in response to humidity levels. This material could be used in a low-power humidity sensor.P73

    Prototype
  • Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
    Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
    Dr. Roger Hanlon, Marine Biological Laboratory

    Inspired by cephalopods, researchers at the Eugene Bell Center in Massachusetts are creating electronic-sensing and color changing sheets. These optical materials may be used in low-power electronic displays.P74

    Prototype
  • Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
    Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
    Dr. Mathias Kolle, MIT

    After studying the photonic properties of the Margaritaria nobilius seed, researchers at MIT developed fibers that change color when stretched.P75

    Prototype
  • Biofilm-Based Technology
    Biofilm-Based Technology
    Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

    Prototype
  • Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
    Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
    Dr. Corey Noone, MIT

    Fibonacci spirals are a naturally-occurring strategy for packing many units together efficiently. Engineers at MIT have modeled a Fibonacci sequence for reflectors in concentrated solar plants, creating an arrangement that would theoretically reduce land use by 20%.P12

    Concept
  • Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
    Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
    Dr. Yasha Yi-a, City University of New York

    Researchers found that a radial microstructure inspired by moth eyes increases light extraction of X-ray machine scintillators. This finding may enable lower dose radiation for imaging patients.P72

    Concept
  • Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Dr. Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University

    Highly fracture-resistant sea sponge spinacles could inspire tougher optical glass fibers manufactured at room temperature.P70

    Concept
  • Spider Web-Based Optoelectronics
    Spider Web-Based Optoelectronics
    Dr. Jinwei Gao, South China Normal University

    Metallized spider webs perform better than standard optoelectronic arrays and can be stretched without losing performance. This finding by several academic teams paves the way to next-generation flexible touch screens.P71

    Concept
  • Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Dr. Peter Dinolfo

    Terrapin assisted Dr. Dinolfo at RPI in securing funds for research that evaluates the rate and efficacy of an inexpensive catalyst. The catalyst mimics the water-splitting complex in plants and is used in artificial photosynthetic devices, zinc-air batteries, and other oxidation-dependent systems.P2

    Concept
  • Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Dr. Jiandi Wan, RIT

    Dr. Wan at RIT is developing a leaf-mimicking microfluidic device to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products like methane and methanol. Terrapin helped secure funding for this project.P3

    Concept

Paints & Adhesives

Swipe
  • ChromaFlair® Paint
    ChromaFlair® Paint
    JDSU

    JDSU, a manufacturer based in California, makes brilliant, color-shifting paints that use the thin-film interference phenomenon found in butterfly wings and seashells. The company’s ChromaFlair® paint is used on cars, sports equipment, and building interiors.P77

    In Market
  • Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
    Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
    Dyesol

    Dyesol’s dye-sensitized solar cells, which mimic the electron transport chain in photosynthesis, are printed on thin, flexible plastic using non-toxic, low-energy manufacturing.P78

    In Market
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Development
  • StoCoat Lotusan®
    StoCoat Lotusan®
    Sto Corp.

    Building products manufacturer Sto Corp. developed a hydrophobic acrylic paint that mimics the self-cleaning properties of the lotus leaf.P67

    In Market
  • PureBond®
    PureBond®
    Columbia Forest Products

    Developed by Columbia Forest Products, this soy-based glue mimics mussel adhesive. The North American panel manufacturer uses PureBond to laminate plywood without added formaldehyde.P68

    In Market
  • Naturally-Synthesized Film Developer
    Naturally-Synthesized Film Developer
    Warner Babcock Institute

    The Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry synthesized a film development chemical using a bioinspired process that is safer, uses less energy, and reduces waste compared to conventional chemical synthesis.P63

    In Market
  • Sharklet™
    Sharklet™
    Sharklet Technologies, Inc.

    Sharklet™ surface textures are used on products like medical devices, furniture, and cell phone cases. The plastic coatings have microscopic patterns inspired by sharkskin that repel bacteria without perpetuating antibiotic resistance.P64

    In Market
  • SLIPS
    SLIPS
    SLIPS Technologies, Inc.

    Inspired by the slippery surface of the pitcher plant, this microscopic coating has applications in anti-fouling, heat exchange, and rapid defrosting. SLIPS Technologies was launched in 2014 after incubation at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.P60

    Development
  • Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Dr. Jeffrey Karp, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

    Researchers at the Karp Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a sandcastle worm-inspired surgical glue that sets while inside organs.P57

    Prototype
  • Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Dr. Anil Netravali, Cornell University

    With assistance from Terrapin, Cornell researcher Dr. Anil Netravali is developing a superhydrophobic coating for high voltage power lines that reduces ice buildup, electrical outages, and costly infrastructure damage during winter storms.P52

    Prototype
  • Mussel-Inspired Adhesive
    Mussel-Inspired Adhesive
    Dr. Rich Gross, SyntheZyme

    At RPI, Dr. Rich Gross is synthesizing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly bioadhesives designed by mimicking the chemical and mechanistic features of marine mussels’ byssal threads. Terrapin worked with Dr. Gross to differentiate his technology from competitors and secure funding.P53

    Prototype
  • Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Green Building Materials
    Blue Planet Ltd.

    California-based Blue Planet synthesizes cement additives and other green building materials from waste carbon flue streams to make carbon-negative concrete. Terrapin is working with Blue Planet to identify potential demonstration sites in New York State.P6

    Development
  • Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Nature Inspired Industries; Dr. David Kisailus (UC Riverside)

    The developers of this highly impact-resistant composite material—inspired by the hard club of the Mantis shrimp—received an acquisition offer that provided initial seed investors a 10x return in only 18 months.P49

    Development

Pharmaceuticals

Swipe
  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Prototype
  • Hairprint
    Hairprint
    Hairprint; Warner Babcock Institute

    This hair treatment, currently designed for brown or black hair, restores gray hair to its former color. The technology mimics the hair pigmentation process and uses the natural pigment eumelanin that dictates hair color.P102

    In Market
  • Mother Dirt™
    Mother Dirt™
    AOBiome

    This body spray contains ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that convert the urea and ammonia in sweat—which is abrasive to the skin, causing acne and irritation—into nitrite, which fights most bad bacteria, and nitric oxide, which has anti-inflammatory properties. The novel spray reduces a user’s dependence on soap, deodorant, and moisturizer, and replenishes the skin biome killed by modern hygiene products.P89

    In Market
  • HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    Nova Laboratories Ltd.

    “Dry” vaccines, created by Nova Laboratories in the U.K., do not require refrigeration. The active materials are encased in a sugar matrix, a technique inspired by organisms that undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation.P93

    In Market
  • SampleMatrix®
    SampleMatrix®
    Biomatrica, Inc.

    The California-based company Biomatrica developed processes akin to anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, to stabilize fragile biological materials like DNA so they can be stored without refrigeration.P94

    In Market
  • Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
    Dr. Jeffrey Karp, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

    Researchers at the Karp Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a sandcastle worm-inspired surgical glue that sets while inside organs.P57

    Prototype
  • Whale Pacemaker
    Whale Pacemaker
    Jorge Reynolds Pombo

    Contractions in humpback whale hearts are controlled by nano-fibers that conduct electrical signals through an otherwise non-conductive grease coating the heart. Mimicking this concept using carbon nanowires could lead to a new type of pacemaker.P46

    Concept

Plastic Products

Swipe
  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Prototype
  • Mango Materials
    Mango Materials
    Mango Materials

    Using waste methane as a feedstock, Mango Materials grows bacteria that naturally produce a biopolymer. This economically competitive material can be used to create biodegradable plastic as well as conventional products like electronic casings, bottles, and children’s toys.P105

    Development
  • OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    Altair

    Inspired by the way bones grow, software developer Altair created structural analysis software that uses an evolutionary algorithm to find the optimum shape for components, reducing weight and materials without compromising strength.P24

    In Market
  • Capillary-Cooled Injection Molds
    Capillary-Cooled Injection Molds
    Harbec, Inc.

    Plastics manufacturer Harbec is incorporating internal cooling channels in its molds, mimicking natural flow patterns, such as vascular systems, to remove thermal energy more effectively. This will result in reduced cooling time, reduced power consumption, improved turn-around time, and increased production speed.P92

    Development
  • Mushroom® Materials
    Mushroom® Materials
    Ecovative

    Ecovative grows mycelium in molds filled with agricultural waste. The fungi bind the waste fibers together into a solid mass, which is heat treated to produce a biodegradable alternative to harmful synthetic packaging and other products.P62

    In Market
  • Sharklet™
    Sharklet™
    Sharklet Technologies, Inc.

    Sharklet™ surface textures are used on products like medical devices, furniture, and cell phone cases. The plastic coatings have microscopic patterns inspired by sharkskin that repel bacteria without perpetuating antibiotic resistance.P64

    In Market
  • Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Dr. Geoff Coates, Cornell University

    At Cornell University, Dr. Geoff Coates is developing an enzyme-like catalyst to synthesize biodegradable polyesters produced using significantly less energy than conventional polyester. Terrapin worked closely with Dr. Coates to develop research proposals and secure funding.P51

    Prototype
  • Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
    Dr. Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester

    Dr. Chunlei Guo at University of Rochester uses laser processing to produce superwicking materials that enable more efficient air conditioning. Terrapin worked with Dr. Guo to define the market value of his technology and secure funding.P54

    Prototype
  • Converge® Polyols
    Converge® Polyols
    Novomer

    Novomer took inspiration from photosynthetic organisms and developed a process that sequesters carbon by converting waste CO2 and CO into useful chemical polymers.P8

    In Market
  • Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
    Dr. Chris Nomura, SUNY-ESF

    Dr. Nomura at SUNY-ESF is producing low-embodied energy, keratin‐inspired polymers to be used as crosslinking agents in resins and coatings, replacing petroleum‐derived crosslinkers. Terrapin worked with the research team to find applications for the technology and secure funding.P47

    Concept
  • Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
    Nature Inspired Industries; Dr. David Kisailus (UC Riverside)

    The developers of this highly impact-resistant composite material—inspired by the hard club of the Mantis shrimp—received an acquisition offer that provided initial seed investors a 10x return in only 18 months.P49

    Development

Power Generation, Distribution & Storage

Swipe
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc.

    NBD Nano is developing a novel hydrophobic coating inspired by the Namibian Desert Beetle’s shell. This coating for condensing tubes in power plants increases heat transfer rate by 200%, and has applications in other industrial processes, thermal desalination, and fog harvesting. NBD Nano is moving into large scale pilot testing.P40

    Development
  • Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Symbiosis

    In Kalundborg, Denmark, over 16 industrial facilities and farms in close proximity exchange materials and energy. One plant’s waste becomes another’s raw material, saving about $15 million a year.P88

    In Market
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Tubercle Technology™
    Tubercle Technology™
    WhalePower

    Inspired by the tubercles found on whale fins, WhalePower developed blades with bumps along the leading edges that allow for very high stall angles. Envira-North Systems in Ontario applied the technology to their high volume, low speed Altra-Air fan.P41

    In Market
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    In Market
  • Schooling Fish Wind Farms
    Schooling Fish Wind Farms
    Dr. John Dabiri, CalTech

    Engineers at Caltech developed algorithms inspired by schooling fish that decrease the amount of space required for vertical axis wind farms without compromising individual turbine efficiency.P39

    Development
  • Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
    Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
    Multiple Researchers

    Anti-reflective films inspired by the moth eye’s microstructure improve solar panel photo absorption by 5 to 10%.P80

    In Market
  • Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
    Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
    Dyesol

    Dyesol’s dye-sensitized solar cells, which mimic the electron transport chain in photosynthesis, are printed on thin, flexible plastic using non-toxic, low-energy manufacturing.P78

    In Market
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Development
  • BioWAVE™ Power
    BioWAVE™ Power
    BioPower Systems

    bioWAVE™, a wave energy generator developed by BioPower Systems, mimics the motion of ocean vegetation. The swaying motion generates power through a unique hydraulic system undergoing testing in a 250 kW demonstration project.P31

    Development
  • Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Energy

    Ohio-based Pilus Energy, a subsidiary of Tauriga Sciences, is currently pilot testing its microbial fuel cell technology. As modified bacteria break down organics in wastewater, they produce electricity, treated water, and useful chemical compounds.P32

    Development
  • bioSTREAM™ Power
    bioSTREAM™ Power
    BioPower Systems

    BioPower Systems in Australia is developing fishtail-inspired modules that generate power from tidal currents. The fin of each module pivots relative to the direction of the current, creating a swimming motion that generates an electric current.P29

    Prototype
  • Electric Eel BattCell
    Electric Eel BattCell
    Advanced Biomimetic Sensors, Inc.

    Advanced Biomimetic Sensors claims that their patented BattCell prototype, inspired by the electric eel, uses a biomimetic membrane to enhance its power density beyond other fuel cell technologies.P28

    Prototype
  • Voltaic Pile
    Voltaic Pile
    Alessandro Volta

    Studies of the electric Torpedo ray and frog leg nerve responses led Alessandro Volta to build the first battery, the Voltaic pile, by stacking metal and salt-soaked discs in a similar arrangement to the discs within the fish’s electric organ.P33

    In Market
  • Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
    Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
    Ceralink, Inc.

    R&D firm Ceralink uses laminated object manufacturing, a rapid prototyping technique, to replicate bioinspired structures for use in clean energy applications. Terrapin worked with Ceralink to secure early-stage funding.P61

    Development
  • Biofilm-Based Technology
    Biofilm-Based Technology
    Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

    Prototype
  • Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Dr. Anil Netravali, Cornell University

    With assistance from Terrapin, Cornell researcher Dr. Anil Netravali is developing a superhydrophobic coating for high voltage power lines that reduces ice buildup, electrical outages, and costly infrastructure damage during winter storms.P52

    Prototype
  • Aquaporin Inside™
    Aquaporin Inside™
    Aquaporin A/S

    Aquaporin A/S is pilot testing a membrane system embedded with biological water channels that can filter water using 80% less energy than conventional processes.P100

    In Market
  • Sahara Forest Project
    Sahara Forest Project
    Exploration Architecture

    The Sahara Forest Project, proposed by British firm Exploration Architecture, combines evaporation from Seawater Greenhouses (see Water) with excess heat from adjacent concentrated solar plants in order to create moist microclimates that curb desertification.P82

    Concept
  • Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
    Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
    Dr. Corey Noone, MIT

    Fibonacci spirals are a naturally-occurring strategy for packing many units together efficiently. Engineers at MIT have modeled a Fibonacci sequence for reflectors in concentrated solar plants, creating an arrangement that would theoretically reduce land use by 20%.P12

    Concept
  • Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Dr. Art Stipanovic, SUNY-ESF

    Terrapin helped secure early funding for research by Dr. Stipanovic at SUNY-ESF. He aims to isolate the digestive enzymes of Red Pandas – which efficiently convert biomass to fermentable sugarsfor use in biofuel production.P27

    Concept
  • Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Ear Protein-Inspired Power
    Cambrian Innovation

    The prestin protein in animal ears converts vibrations into electrical signals. IntAct Labs, now Cambrian Innovation, embedded prestin proteins into “skins” that generate electricity from movement and wind.P26

    Concept
  • Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Dr. Peter Dinolfo

    Terrapin assisted Dr. Dinolfo at RPI in securing funds for research that evaluates the rate and efficacy of an inexpensive catalyst. The catalyst mimics the water-splitting complex in plants and is used in artificial photosynthetic devices, zinc-air batteries, and other oxidation-dependent systems.P2

    Concept
  • Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Dr. Jiandi Wan, RIT

    Dr. Wan at RIT is developing a leaf-mimicking microfluidic device to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products like methane and methanol. Terrapin helped secure funding for this project.P3

    Concept
  • Photosynthetic Foam
    Photosynthetic Foam
    Dr. David Wendell, University of Cincinnati

    Inspired by the tungara frog, which produces long-lasting foam nests, engineers at the University of Cincinnati developed a stable foam from one of the frog’s proteins and combined it with photosynthetic enzymes that convert CO2 to sugars and oxygen.P4

    Concept

Software

Swipe
  • OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    Altair

    Inspired by the way bones grow, software developer Altair created structural analysis software that uses an evolutionary algorithm to find the optimum shape for components, reducing weight and materials without compromising strength.P24

    In Market
  • Swarm Logic™
    Swarm Logic™
    Encycle

    Inspired by bee communication, Encycle’s Swarm Logic™ systems reduce a building’s energy draw, especially during peak hours, by using individual wireless controllers that coordinate when HVAC units power on.P25

    In Market
  • Ant-Based Plane Guidance
    Ant-Based Plane Guidance
    Southwest Airlines

    Southwest Airlines developed an ant-inspired computing algorithm that drastically reduces the amount of time planes wait for gates to open at airports.P23

    In Market
  • Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
    Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
    Nu Tech Software Solutions, Inc.

    Bios Group, now NuTech Solutions, studied ant foraging to develop a logistics algorithm for industrial supplier Air Liquide. Air Liquide uses the algorithm to manage plant scheduling, weather, and deliveries, which has yielded substantial time and cost savings.P20

    Development
  • Honey Bee Web Hosting
    Honey Bee Web Hosting
    Dr. Craig Tovey, Georgia Tech

    Researchers at Georgia Tech developed an internet server system that adapts to user demand the way bees adapt to changing food sources: by communicating the new locations back to the hive. The system increased one web hosting company’s revenues by 20%.P18

    Development
  • Artificial Immune System Software
    Artificial Immune System Software
    Multiple Researchers

    Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

    Development
  • IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM, Cornell Tech

    Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

    Development
  • Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Dr. Shantanu Chakrabartty, Michigan State University

    Engineers at Michigan State developed a sensor based on a fly’s ear that accurately detects the source of sounds using a mechanical lever system and neuronal signal processing.P16

    Prototype
  • Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Multiple Researchers

    Compound insect eyes can detect movement much faster than traditional cameras. This capacity has inspired novel vision sensors for aerial systems, robotics, high-speed inspection in manufacturing, and other applications.P17

    Prototype
  • DNA Data Storage
    DNA Data Storage
    Dr. George Church, Harvard University

    Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute coded 700 terabytes of data into less than one gram of DNA. The scientists believe that with further improvements, all the world’s data (1.8 zettabytes) could theoretically be stored in about 4 grams of DNA.P15

    Prototype
  • Autonomous Swarm Robots
    Autonomous Swarm Robots
    Dr. Radhika Nagpal, Harvard University

    Autonomous robot swarms, developed by researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, organize themselves into complex shapes using swarm intelligence—a method of computation inspired by swarming organisms like ants, bees, birds, and bacteria.P14

    Prototype
  • Locust Collision Avoidance
    Locust Collision Avoidance
    Volvo Car Group

    Volvo is investigating how to incorporate the unique collision avoidance abilities of swarming locusts into crash avoidance sensors for cars.P13

    Concept
  • Bat-Nav System
    Bat-Nav System
    Dr. Arseny Finklestein, Weizmann Institute of Science

    Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that bats track their positions in three dimensions using a donut-shaped coordinate system, which could inspire a new navigation system.P9

    Concept
  • DNA-Based Computing
    DNA-Based Computing
    Multiple Researchers

    DNA-based computers could theoretically use chemical base pairs as “switches.” This would enable a much more space-efficient, non-toxic form of computing that would pack the computing power of the most powerful supercomputer into a drop of water.P10

    Concept

Telecommunication

Swipe
  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Prototype
  • Honey Bee Web Hosting
    Honey Bee Web Hosting
    Dr. Craig Tovey, Georgia Tech

    Researchers at Georgia Tech developed an internet server system that adapts to user demand the way bees adapt to changing food sources: by communicating the new locations back to the hive. The system increased one web hosting company’s revenues by 20%.P18

    Development
  • IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM, Cornell Tech

    Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

    Development
  • Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
    Dr. Shantanu Chakrabartty, Michigan State University

    Engineers at Michigan State developed a sensor based on a fly’s ear that accurately detects the source of sounds using a mechanical lever system and neuronal signal processing.P16

    Prototype
  • DNA-Based Computing
    DNA-Based Computing
    Multiple Researchers

    DNA-based computers could theoretically use chemical base pairs as “switches.” This would enable a much more space-efficient, non-toxic form of computing that would pack the computing power of the most powerful supercomputer into a drop of water.P10

    Concept
  • Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
    Dr. Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University

    Highly fracture-resistant sea sponge spinacles could inspire tougher optical glass fibers manufactured at room temperature.P70

    Concept

Textiles & Apparel

Swipe
  • Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
    Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

    Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

    Prototype
  • BioKnit Shoes
    BioKnit Shoes
    Ammo Liao Design

    Similar to the strategy seen in many organisms where a limited number of substances are specifically used to produce materials with diverse mechanical properties, the shoe’s manufacturing process uses a single material to create a recyclable shoe that features varying levels of softness, strength, and flexibility.P108

    Prototype
  • GreenShield
    GreenShield
    BigSky Technologies

    This nanoparticle-based textile finish, inspired by plant leaves, allows water droplets to roll off fabric, carrying along dirt and other particles to create a self-cleaning effect.P107

    In Market
  • Engineered Silk
    Engineered Silk
    Bolt Threads

    Inspired by spider silk, Bolt Threads spins yeast-produced proteins into silk. These fibers–made from water, sugar, and salts–can provide garments and fabrics with greater durability and strength.P103

    Development
  • Interface® Carpet
    Interface® Carpet
    Interface, Inc.

    Global carpet manufacturer Interface developed modular carpet tiles with patterns that can be laid down randomly, without glue, mimicking variegated leaves on a forest floor.P66

    In Market
  • VELCRO® Fasteners
    VELCRO® Fasteners
    Velcro Industries

    This ubiquitous fastener was inspired by the miniature hooks on seed burrs that allow them to cling to looped fabric.P69

    In Market
  • Modern Meadow Leather
    Modern Meadow Leather
    Modern Meadow, Inc.

    Biotech startup Modern Meadow uses advanced tissue engineering techniques to make lab-grown leather that is analogous to leather produced from animals.P59

    Development

Transportation

Swipe
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
    Altair

    Inspired by the way bones grow, software developer Altair created structural analysis software that uses an evolutionary algorithm to find the optimum shape for components, reducing weight and materials without compromising strength.P24

    In Market
  • Ant-Based Plane Guidance
    Ant-Based Plane Guidance
    Southwest Airlines

    Southwest Airlines developed an ant-inspired computing algorithm that drastically reduces the amount of time planes wait for gates to open at airports.P23

    In Market
  • Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
    Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
    Nu Tech Software Solutions, Inc.

    Bios Group, now NuTech Solutions, studied ant foraging to develop a logistics algorithm for industrial supplier Air Liquide. Air Liquide uses the algorithm to manage plant scheduling, weather, and deliveries, which has yielded substantial time and cost savings.P20

    Development
  • IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM SyNAPSE Chip
    IBM, Cornell Tech

    Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

    Development
  • 500-Series Shinkasen Train
    500-Series Shinkasen Train
    Eiji Nakatsu

    The Japanese bullet train has a pointed nose inspired by the kingfisher’s beak that reduces noise and power consumption while increasing speed.P42

    In Market
  • RoboClam Excavator
    RoboClam Excavator
    Dr. Anette Hosoi, MIT

    A team at MIT constructed a prototype robotic excavator inspired by the low-drag burrowing of Atlantic razor clams. The excavator could be used for reversible ocean anchoring, subsea cable installation, and ocean sensor placement.P38

    Prototype
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Development
  • Locust Collision Avoidance
    Locust Collision Avoidance
    Volvo Car Group

    Volvo is investigating how to incorporate the unique collision avoidance abilities of swarming locusts into crash avoidance sensors for cars.P13

    Concept
  • Bat-Nav System
    Bat-Nav System
    Dr. Arseny Finklestein, Weizmann Institute of Science

    Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that bats track their positions in three dimensions using a donut-shaped coordinate system, which could inspire a new navigation system.P9

    Concept
  • Jellyfish Jet Propulsion
    Jellyfish Jet Propulsion
    Dr. John Dabiri, CalTech

    According to a research team at Caltech, jellyfish-inspired pulsed jet propulsion could be 50% more efficient that existing steady-jet propulsion.P37

    Concept
  • Snake-Inspired Flight
    Snake-Inspired Flight
    Dr. Jake Socha, Virginia Tech

    The tree snake Chrysopelea glides from tree to tree by flattening its body and swaying in the air. DARPA funded research on Chrysopelea for possible military applications.P35

    Concept
  • “V” Formation Flight
    “V” Formation Flight
    Dr. Ilan Kroo, Stanford University

    When moving through fluids, objects in a “V” formation expend less energy than solo objects.P36

    Concept
  • Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Dr. Peter Dinolfo

    Terrapin assisted Dr. Dinolfo at RPI in securing funds for research that evaluates the rate and efficacy of an inexpensive catalyst. The catalyst mimics the water-splitting complex in plants and is used in artificial photosynthetic devices, zinc-air batteries, and other oxidation-dependent systems.P2

    Concept
  • Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Dr. Jiandi Wan, RIT

    Dr. Wan at RIT is developing a leaf-mimicking microfluidic device to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products like methane and methanol. Terrapin helped secure funding for this project.P3

    Concept

Utilities

Swipe
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • Passive Fluid Transport
    Passive Fluid Transport
    Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

    With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

    Prototype
  • Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Symbiosis

    In Kalundborg, Denmark, over 16 industrial facilities and farms in close proximity exchange materials and energy. One plant’s waste becomes another’s raw material, saving about $15 million a year.P88

    In Market
  • Swarm Logic™
    Swarm Logic™
    Encycle

    Inspired by bee communication, Encycle’s Swarm Logic™ systems reduce a building’s energy draw, especially during peak hours, by using individual wireless controllers that coordinate when HVAC units power on.P25

    In Market
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Insect Eye Vision Sensor
    Multiple Researchers

    Compound insect eyes can detect movement much faster than traditional cameras. This capacity has inspired novel vision sensors for aerial systems, robotics, high-speed inspection in manufacturing, and other applications.P17

    Prototype
  • Schooling Fish Wind Farms
    Schooling Fish Wind Farms
    Dr. John Dabiri, CalTech

    Engineers at Caltech developed algorithms inspired by schooling fish that decrease the amount of space required for vertical axis wind farms without compromising individual turbine efficiency.P39

    Development
  • BioWAVE™ Power
    BioWAVE™ Power
    BioPower Systems

    bioWAVE™, a wave energy generator developed by BioPower Systems, mimics the motion of ocean vegetation. The swaying motion generates power through a unique hydraulic system undergoing testing in a 250 kW demonstration project.P31

    Development
  • bioSTREAM™ Power
    bioSTREAM™ Power
    BioPower Systems

    BioPower Systems in Australia is developing fishtail-inspired modules that generate power from tidal currents. The fin of each module pivots relative to the direction of the current, creating a swimming motion that generates an electric current.P29

    Prototype
  • Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
    Dr. Anil Netravali, Cornell University

    With assistance from Terrapin, Cornell researcher Dr. Anil Netravali is developing a superhydrophobic coating for high voltage power lines that reduces ice buildup, electrical outages, and costly infrastructure damage during winter storms.P52

    Prototype
  • Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
    Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
    Dr. Corey Noone, MIT

    Fibonacci spirals are a naturally-occurring strategy for packing many units together efficiently. Engineers at MIT have modeled a Fibonacci sequence for reflectors in concentrated solar plants, creating an arrangement that would theoretically reduce land use by 20%.P12

    Concept
  • Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
    Dr. Peter Dinolfo

    Terrapin assisted Dr. Dinolfo at RPI in securing funds for research that evaluates the rate and efficacy of an inexpensive catalyst. The catalyst mimics the water-splitting complex in plants and is used in artificial photosynthetic devices, zinc-air batteries, and other oxidation-dependent systems.P2

    Concept
  • Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
    Dr. Jiandi Wan, RIT

    Dr. Wan at RIT is developing a leaf-mimicking microfluidic device to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products like methane and methanol. Terrapin helped secure funding for this project.P3

    Concept

Warehouse & Distribution

Swipe
  • Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Symbiosis

    In Kalundborg, Denmark, over 16 industrial facilities and farms in close proximity exchange materials and energy. One plant’s waste becomes another’s raw material, saving about $15 million a year.P88

    In Market
  • Ant-Based Plane Guidance
    Ant-Based Plane Guidance
    Southwest Airlines

    Southwest Airlines developed an ant-inspired computing algorithm that drastically reduces the amount of time planes wait for gates to open at airports.P23

    In Market
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
    Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
    Nu Tech Software Solutions, Inc.

    Bios Group, now NuTech Solutions, studied ant foraging to develop a logistics algorithm for industrial supplier Air Liquide. Air Liquide uses the algorithm to manage plant scheduling, weather, and deliveries, which has yielded substantial time and cost savings.P20

    Development
  • HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
    Nova Laboratories Ltd.

    “Dry” vaccines, created by Nova Laboratories in the U.K., do not require refrigeration. The active materials are encased in a sugar matrix, a technique inspired by organisms that undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation.P93

    In Market
  • SampleMatrix®
    SampleMatrix®
    Biomatrica, Inc.

    The California-based company Biomatrica developed processes akin to anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, to stabilize fragile biological materials like DNA so they can be stored without refrigeration.P94

    In Market

Waste Management

Swipe
  • Mango Materials
    Mango Materials
    Mango Materials

    Using waste methane as a feedstock, Mango Materials grows bacteria that naturally produce a biopolymer. This economically competitive material can be used to create biodegradable plastic as well as conventional products like electronic casings, bottles, and children’s toys.P105

    Development
  • Aquaponic Systems
    Aquaponic Systems
    Multiple Companies

    Hydroponics and fish farming are combined based on the symbiotic flow of nutrients between the fish and plants. Fish waste provides nutrients to the plants, which filter the water for the fish.P86

    In Market
  • Eco-Machine®
    Eco-Machine®
    John Todd Ecological Design

    John Todd Ecological Design uses constructed wetlands and aquatic tanks containing various microbes, plants, and aquatic animals to filter wastewater.P87

    In Market
  • Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Symbiosis

    In Kalundborg, Denmark, over 16 industrial facilities and farms in close proximity exchange materials and energy. One plant’s waste becomes another’s raw material, saving about $15 million a year.P88

    In Market
  • Cardboard to Caviar
    Cardboard to Caviar
    Graham Wiles

    This closed-loop recycling scheme uses waste products like cardboard from restaurants to make products like caviar from farmed sturgeon. The concept could be replicated with other interrelated products to reduce waste and save energy and money.P83

    Prototype
  • Mushroom® Materials
    Mushroom® Materials
    Ecovative

    Ecovative grows mycelium in molds filled with agricultural waste. The fungi bind the waste fibers together into a solid mass, which is heat treated to produce a biodegradable alternative to harmful synthetic packaging and other products.P62

    In Market
  • WikiPearls™
    WikiPearls™
    WikiFoods, Inc.

    Inspired by fruit and vegetable peels, WikiPearls™, developed by WikiFoods, Inc., seal food and beverages in bite-sized, edible “wrappers” that obviate plastic packaging.P65

    In Market
  • Biofilm-Based Technology
    Biofilm-Based Technology
    Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

    Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

    Prototype
  • Biolytix®
    Biolytix®
    Biolytix

    Biolytix markets a household wastewater treatment system that relies on worms and other organisms to filter water and break down sewage. The system uses no toxic chemicals and 90% less energy than conventional aerated sewage treatment systems.P101

    In Market
  • BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Products

    Headquartered in California, BioWorld sells mixes of specialized bacteria that break down hydrocarbons into less harmful chemicals. These products are authorized by the EPA for use on oil spills.P7

    In Market
  • Sahara Forest Project
    Sahara Forest Project
    Exploration Architecture

    The Sahara Forest Project, proposed by British firm Exploration Architecture, combines evaporation from Seawater Greenhouses (see Water) with excess heat from adjacent concentrated solar plants in order to create moist microclimates that curb desertification.P82

    Concept
  • Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
    Dr. Art Stipanovic, SUNY-ESF

    Terrapin helped secure early funding for research by Dr. Stipanovic at SUNY-ESF. He aims to isolate the digestive enzymes of Red Pandas – which efficiently convert biomass to fermentable sugarsfor use in biofuel production.P27

    Concept
  • Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
    Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
    Dr. Jim Spain, Georgia Tech

    Scientists at Georgia Tech patented the use of biological enzymes that break down harmful carbon compounds into valuable chemicals.P5

    Prototype

Water Treatment

Swipe
  • FE2owlet Fan
    FE2owlet Fan
    Ziehl-Abegg

    Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

    In Market
  • NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
    NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc.

    NBD Nano is developing a novel hydrophobic coating inspired by the Namibian Desert Beetle’s shell. This coating for condensing tubes in power plants increases heat transfer rate by 200%, and has applications in other industrial processes, thermal desalination, and fog harvesting. NBD Nano is moving into large scale pilot testing.P40

    Development
  • Aquaponic Systems
    Aquaponic Systems
    Multiple Companies

    Hydroponics and fish farming are combined based on the symbiotic flow of nutrients between the fish and plants. Fish waste provides nutrients to the plants, which filter the water for the fish.P86

    In Market
  • Eco-Machine®
    Eco-Machine®
    John Todd Ecological Design

    John Todd Ecological Design uses constructed wetlands and aquatic tanks containing various microbes, plants, and aquatic animals to filter wastewater.P87

    In Market
  • Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
    Kalundborg Symbiosis

    In Kalundborg, Denmark, over 16 industrial facilities and farms in close proximity exchange materials and energy. One plant’s waste becomes another’s raw material, saving about $15 million a year.P88

    In Market
  • Phoebe Framework
    Phoebe Framework
    Terrapin Bright Green

    Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

    Development
  • Lily Impeller
    Lily Impeller
    PAX Scientific

    The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

    In Market
  • µMist® Platform Technology
    µMist® Platform Technology
    Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

    Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

    Development
  • Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Cell™
    Pilus Energy

    Ohio-based Pilus Energy, a subsidiary of Tauriga Sciences, is currently pilot testing its microbial fuel cell technology. As modified bacteria break down organics in wastewater, they produce electricity, treated water, and useful chemical compounds.P32

    Development
  • Aquaporin Inside™
    Aquaporin Inside™
    Aquaporin A/S

    Aquaporin A/S is pilot testing a membrane system embedded with biological water channels that can filter water using 80% less energy than conventional processes.P100

    In Market
  • Biolytix®
    Biolytix®
    Biolytix

    Biolytix markets a household wastewater treatment system that relies on worms and other organisms to filter water and break down sewage. The system uses no toxic chemicals and 90% less energy than conventional aerated sewage treatment systems.P101

    In Market
  • Seawater Greenhouse
    Seawater Greenhouse
    Seawater Greenhouses Ltd. and Sundrop Farms Pty. Ltd.

    Inspired by the way the Namib beetle collects water from fog, Seawater Greenhouses use cold seawater, air movement and solar radiation to condense and collect fresh water for crops.P99

    Development
  • Fog Harvesting Mesh
    Fog Harvesting Mesh
    MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

    Researchers at MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile have designed specialized fog mesh nets that condense and capture 10% of the water in fog, a strategy inspired by how some Chilean organisms collect water from fog.P98

    Development
  • BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
    BioWorld™ Products

    Headquartered in California, BioWorld sells mixes of specialized bacteria that break down hydrocarbons into less harmful chemicals. These products are authorized by the EPA for use on oil spills.P7

    In Market
  • Cactus-Inspired Fog Harvesting
    Cactus-Inspired Fog Harvesting
    Dr. Jie Ju & Dr. Hao Bai, Chinese Academy of Sciences

    The spines of the cactus Opuntia microdasys have specialized structures that can collect and funnel fog droplets into its base, prompting interest in fog harvesting devices that mimic the spines’ structures.P96

    Concept

Wood Products

Swipe
  • PureBond®
    PureBond®
    Columbia Forest Products

    Developed by Columbia Forest Products, this soy-based glue mimics mussel adhesive. The North American panel manufacturer uses PureBond to laminate plywood without added formaldehyde.P68

    In Market
  • Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
    Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
    Achim Menges, University of Stuttgart

    Taking inspiration from the material-efficient structures of organisms like sand dollars, architect Achim Menges constructed a bubble-like pavilion using interlocking timber panels.P55

    Prototype

Market Readiness of Select Bioinspired Technologies

 

Carbon

 

Water

 

Materials

 

Energy Conversion & Storage

 

Optics & Photonics

 

Thermo-regulation

 

Fluid Dynamics

 

Data & Computing

 

Systems

Concept

 
Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
Protein-Mediated Calcite Ceramics
Dr. Colin Freeman, University of Sheffield

Some organisms control calcite deposition to build complex structures like eggs–a process that could inspire precise ceramic manufacturing techniques.P1

Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
Biomimetic Water-Splitting Catalyst
Dr. Peter Dinolfo

Terrapin assisted Dr. Dinolfo at RPI in securing funds for research that evaluates the rate and efficacy of an inexpensive catalyst. The catalyst mimics the water-splitting complex in plants and is used in artificial photosynthetic devices, zinc-air batteries, and other oxidation-dependent systems.P2

Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
Leaf-Mimicking Artificial Photosynthesis
Dr. Jiandi Wan, RIT

Dr. Wan at RIT is developing a leaf-mimicking microfluidic device to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products like methane and methanol. Terrapin helped secure funding for this project.P3

solar-feul

Photosynthetic Foam
Photosynthetic Foam
Dr. David Wendell, University of Cincinnati

Inspired by the tungara frog, which produces long-lasting foam nests, engineers at the University of Cincinnati developed a stable foam from one of the frog’s proteins and combined it with photosynthetic enzymes that convert CO2 to sugars and oxygen.P4

 
Cactus-Inspired Fog Harvesting
Cactus-Inspired Fog Harvesting
Dr. Jie Ju & Dr. Hao Bai, Chinese Academy of Sciences

The spines of the cactus Opuntia microdasys have specialized structures that can collect and funnel fog droplets into its base, prompting interest in fog harvesting devices that mimic the spines’ structures.P96

18_STRAT_Manuel-M-Ramos

 
Bacteria-Inspired Adhesive
Bacteria-Inspired Adhesive
Dr. Jay Tang, Brown University

The bacterium Caulobacter crescentus produces a biodegradable, waterproof adhesive with greater strain resistance than commercial super glues. Dr. Jay Tang at Brown University believes that mimicking its chemistry could yield a nontoxic glue that adheres underwater.P44

 
Spider Silk Fibers
Spider Silk Fibers
Multiple Researchers

Spider silk has high tensile strength, extensibility and toughness compared to synthetic fibers like Kevlar and nylon. Researchers are investigating how to produce similar fibers for extremely strong threads, cords, and cables.P45

Whale Pacemaker
Whale Pacemaker
Jorge Reynolds Pombo

Contractions in humpback whale hearts are controlled by nano-fibers that conduct electrical signals through an otherwise non-conductive grease coating the heart. Mimicking this concept using carbon nanowires could lead to a new type of pacemaker.P46

 
Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
Keratin-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
Dr. Chris Nomura, SUNY-ESF

Dr. Nomura at SUNY-ESF is producing low-embodied energy, keratin‐inspired polymers to be used as crosslinking agents in resins and coatings, replacing petroleum‐derived crosslinkers. Terrapin worked with the research team to find applications for the technology and secure funding.P47

Nacre-Inspired Deformable Glass
Nacre-Inspired Deformable Glass
Dr. Francois Barthelat, McGill University

Inspired by the microscopic structure of nacre and teeth, researchers at McGill University developed deformable glass that is 200 times tougher than standard glass due to a pattern of micro-cracks.P48

23.1_andreina-Schoeberlein

 
Ear Protein-Inspired Power
Ear Protein-Inspired Power
Cambrian Innovation

The prestin protein in animal ears converts vibrations into electrical signals. IntAct Labs, now Cambrian Innovation, embedded prestin proteins into “skins” that generate electricity from movement and wind.P26

 
Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
Red Panda Biofuel Enzymes
Dr. Art Stipanovic, SUNY-ESF

Terrapin helped secure early funding for research by Dr. Stipanovic at SUNY-ESF. He aims to isolate the digestive enzymes of Red Pandas – which efficiently convert biomass to fermentable sugarsfor use in biofuel production.P27

 
Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
Sea Sponge Glass Fibers
Dr. Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University

Highly fracture-resistant sea sponge spinacles could inspire tougher optical glass fibers manufactured at room temperature.P70

Spider Web-Based Optoelectronics
Spider Web-Based Optoelectronics
Dr. Jinwei Gao, South China Normal University

Metallized spider webs perform better than standard optoelectronic arrays and can be stretched without losing performance. This finding by several academic teams paves the way to next-generation flexible touch screens.P71

 
Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
Moth Eye-Inspired X-Ray Imaging
Dr. Yasha Yi-a, City University of New York

Researchers found that a radial microstructure inspired by moth eyes increases light extraction of X-ray machine scintillators. This finding may enable lower dose radiation for imaging patients.P72

Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
Tardigrade-Inspired Organ Preservation
Multiple Researchers

Studying how tardigrades and other organisms undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, could lead to better preservation of organs for transplant.P90

Cactus-Inspired High-Rises
Cactus-Inspired High-Rises
Dr. Chris Letchford, RPI

Inspired by the saguaro cactus, Dr. Letchford at RPI is studying the aerodynamics of vertically-grooved, slender cylinders to define optimal geometries for reduced wind loading on tall buildings.P34

Snake-Inspired Flight
Snake-Inspired Flight
Dr. Jake Socha, Virginia Tech

The tree snake Chrysopelea glides from tree to tree by flattening its body and swaying in the air. DARPA funded research on Chrysopelea for possible military applications.P35

“V” Formation Flight
“V” Formation Flight
Dr. Ilan Kroo, Stanford University

When moving through fluids, objects in a “V” formation expend less energy than solo objects.P36

 
Jellyfish Jet Propulsion
Jellyfish Jet Propulsion
Dr. John Dabiri, CalTech

According to a research team at Caltech, jellyfish-inspired pulsed jet propulsion could be 50% more efficient that existing steady-jet propulsion.P37

 
Bat-Nav System
Bat-Nav System
Dr. Arseny Finklestein, Weizmann Institute of Science

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that bats track their positions in three dimensions using a donut-shaped coordinate system, which could inspire a new navigation system.P9

DNA-Based Computing
DNA-Based Computing
Multiple Researchers

DNA-based computers could theoretically use chemical base pairs as “switches.” This would enable a much more space-efficient, non-toxic form of computing that would pack the computing power of the most powerful supercomputer into a drop of water.P10

Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
Venus Flytrap Electrical Switches
Multiple Researchers

Trigger hairs inside the leaf of the carnivorous Venus flytrap act like electrical switches; when two are stimulated by an insect, the leaf closes. Such switches could inspire electrical devices made from abundant, non-toxic chemicals.P11

 
Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
Fibonacci Solar Power Plant
Dr. Corey Noone, MIT

Fibonacci spirals are a naturally-occurring strategy for packing many units together efficiently. Engineers at MIT have modeled a Fibonacci sequence for reflectors in concentrated solar plants, creating an arrangement that would theoretically reduce land use by 20%.P12

Locust Collision Avoidance
Locust Collision Avoidance
Volvo Car Group

Volvo is investigating how to incorporate the unique collision avoidance abilities of swarming locusts into crash avoidance sensors for cars.P13

 
Sahara Forest Project
Sahara Forest Project
Exploration Architecture

The Sahara Forest Project, proposed by British firm Exploration Architecture, combines evaporation from Seawater Greenhouses (see Water) with excess heat from adjacent concentrated solar plants in order to create moist microclimates that curb desertification.P82

Concept

Prototype

 
Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
Enzymatic Toxin Remediation
Dr. Jim Spain, Georgia Tech

Scientists at Georgia Tech patented the use of biological enzymes that break down harmful carbon compounds into valuable chemicals.P5

Passive Fluid Transport
Passive Fluid Transport
Dr. Philip Comanns; Aachen University

With potential applications in fields such as microfluidics, medical applications, and distilleries, this process of passively transporting fluid through interconnecting capillaries on a material’s surface mimics the water retrieving process of Texas horned lizards’ skin.P104

Termite Humidity Damping Device
Termite Humidity Damping Device
Terrapin Bright Green; Dr. Rupert Soar, Freeform Construction Ltd.; Dr. Scott Turner, SUNY-ESF

In collaboration with Terrapin Bright Green, Dr. Rupert Soar and Dr. Scott Turner are developing a passive humidity damping device based on the fungal combs in termite mounds. The device will stabilize humidity in building spaces, reducing a building’s energy demands.P97

Termite-fungus-comb

Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
Squid-Inspired Self-Healing Polymer
Dr. Melik Demirel; Penn State

Inspired by the mechanical properties of squid teeth, engineers created a polymer that can heal itself in the presence of warm water and slight pressure. This product may be applied in medical implants, textiles, cosmetics, and other applications where self-healing polymers are valuable.P109

Biofilm-Based Technology
Biofilm-Based Technology
Dr. Neel Joshi, Harvard University

Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are expanding modified biofilms into a materials platform, with applications in nanoelectronics, industrial biocatalysis, optically active biological coatings, microbial fuel cells, and bioremediation.P50

Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
Enzyme-Inspired Polymer Synthesis
Dr. Geoff Coates, Cornell University

At Cornell University, Dr. Geoff Coates is developing an enzyme-like catalyst to synthesize biodegradable polyesters produced using significantly less energy than conventional polyester. Terrapin worked closely with Dr. Coates to develop research proposals and secure funding.P51

Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
Lotus Leaf-Inspired Coating
Dr. Anil Netravali, Cornell University

With assistance from Terrapin, Cornell researcher Dr. Anil Netravali is developing a superhydrophobic coating for high voltage power lines that reduces ice buildup, electrical outages, and costly infrastructure damage during winter storms.P52

Mussel-Inspired Adhesive
Mussel-Inspired Adhesive
Dr. Rich Gross, SyntheZyme

At RPI, Dr. Rich Gross is synthesizing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly bioadhesives designed by mimicking the chemical and mechanistic features of marine mussels’ byssal threads. Terrapin worked with Dr. Gross to differentiate his technology from competitors and secure funding.P53

22.1_Brocken Inaglory_wiki - crop

Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
Tree-Inspired Super Wicking Materials
Dr. Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester

Dr. Chunlei Guo at University of Rochester uses laser processing to produce superwicking materials that enable more efficient air conditioning. Terrapin worked with Dr. Guo to define the market value of his technology and secure funding.P54

22.2_titanium22

BioKnit Shoes
BioKnit Shoes
Ammo Liao Design

Similar to the strategy seen in many organisms where a limited number of substances are specifically used to produce materials with diverse mechanical properties, the shoe’s manufacturing process uses a single material to create a recyclable shoe that features varying levels of softness, strength, and flexibility.P108

 
Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall
Achim Menges, University of Stuttgart

Taking inspiration from the material-efficient structures of organisms like sand dollars, architect Achim Menges constructed a bubble-like pavilion using interlocking timber panels.P55

Modern Meadow Meat
Modern Meadow Meat
Modern Meadow, Inc.

Modern Meadow is using tissue engineering techniques that prompt animal cells to grow into muscle tissue for meat. This system provides an alternative to environmentally-destructive animal farming.P56

Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
Worm-Inspired Surgical Glue
Dr. Jeffrey Karp, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Researchers at the Karp Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a sandcastle worm-inspired surgical glue that sets while inside organs.P57

20.STRAT_kqedquest

 
Electric Eel BattCell
Electric Eel BattCell
Advanced Biomimetic Sensors, Inc.

Advanced Biomimetic Sensors claims that their patented BattCell prototype, inspired by the electric eel, uses a biomimetic membrane to enhance its power density beyond other fuel cell technologies.P28

 
bioSTREAM™ Power
bioSTREAM™ Power
BioPower Systems

BioPower Systems in Australia is developing fishtail-inspired modules that generate power from tidal currents. The fin of each module pivots relative to the direction of the current, creating a swimming motion that generates an electric current.P29

Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
Beetle Shell-Inspired Humidity Sensor
Dr. Seung-Yop Lee and Dr. Jungyul Park, Sogang University

Scientists at Sogang University have developed a microporous material inspired by the shell of the Hercules beetle that changes color in response to humidity levels. This material could be used in a low-power humidity sensor.P73

Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
Cephalopod Skin-Inspired Displays
Dr. Roger Hanlon, Marine Biological Laboratory

Inspired by cephalopods, researchers at the Eugene Bell Center in Massachusetts are creating electronic-sensing and color changing sheets. These optical materials may be used in low-power electronic displays.P74

Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
Seed-Inspired Color Changing Fibers
Dr. Mathias Kolle, MIT

After studying the photonic properties of the Margaritaria nobilius seed, researchers at MIT developed fibers that change color when stretched.P75

 
Vascular Window Cooling
Vascular Window Cooling
Benjamen Hatton, Wyss Institute

Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created windows with microfluidic channels patterned like vascular circulatory systems.P91

 
RoboClam Excavator
RoboClam Excavator
Dr. Anette Hosoi, MIT

A team at MIT constructed a prototype robotic excavator inspired by the low-drag burrowing of Atlantic razor clams. The excavator could be used for reversible ocean anchoring, subsea cable installation, and ocean sensor placement.P38

DNA Data Storage
DNA Data Storage
Dr. George Church, Harvard University

Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute coded 700 terabytes of data into less than one gram of DNA. The scientists believe that with further improvements, all the world’s data (1.8 zettabytes) could theoretically be stored in about 4 grams of DNA.P15

Autonomous Swarm Robots
Autonomous Swarm Robots
Dr. Radhika Nagpal, Harvard University

Autonomous robot swarms, developed by researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, organize themselves into complex shapes using swarm intelligence—a method of computation inspired by swarming organisms like ants, bees, birds, and bacteria.P14

 
Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
Fly Ear Acoustic Sensor
Dr. Shantanu Chakrabartty, Michigan State University

Engineers at Michigan State developed a sensor based on a fly’s ear that accurately detects the source of sounds using a mechanical lever system and neuronal signal processing.P16

Insect Eye Vision Sensor
Insect Eye Vision Sensor
Multiple Researchers

Compound insect eyes can detect movement much faster than traditional cameras. This capacity has inspired novel vision sensors for aerial systems, robotics, high-speed inspection in manufacturing, and other applications.P17

 

 
Cardboard to Caviar
Cardboard to Caviar
Graham Wiles

This closed-loop recycling scheme uses waste products like cardboard from restaurants to make products like caviar from farmed sturgeon. The concept could be replicated with other interrelated products to reduce waste and save energy and money.P83

Prototype

Development

 
Blue Planet Green Building Materials
Blue Planet Green Building Materials
Blue Planet Ltd.

California-based Blue Planet synthesizes cement additives and other green building materials from waste carbon flue streams to make carbon-negative concrete. Terrapin is working with Blue Planet to identify potential demonstration sites in New York State.P6

8.1_USFWS-Pacific-Region

 
Fog Harvesting Mesh
Fog Harvesting Mesh
MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Researchers at MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile have designed specialized fog mesh nets that condense and capture 10% of the water in fog, a strategy inspired by how some Chilean organisms collect water from fog.P98

NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
NBD Nano Hydrophobic Coatings
NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc.

NBD Nano is developing a novel hydrophobic coating inspired by the Namibian Desert Beetle’s shell. This coating for condensing tubes in power plants increases heat transfer rate by 200%, and has applications in other industrial processes, thermal desalination, and fog harvesting. NBD Nano is moving into large scale pilot testing.P40

 
Seawater Greenhouse
Seawater Greenhouse
Seawater Greenhouses Ltd. and Sundrop Farms Pty. Ltd.

Inspired by the way the Namib beetle collects water from fog, Seawater Greenhouses use cold seawater, air movement and solar radiation to condense and collect fresh water for crops.P99

19.2_Seawater-Greenhouses_abu-dhabi

Biocement™ Bricks
Biocement™ Bricks
bioMASON

Combining sand, bacteria, nutrients, a nitrogen source, a calcium source, and water, biotech startup bioMASON “grows” bricks by leveraging the bacteria’s metabolic activities, which cause calcium carbonate to cement the sand together without firing.P58

22.3_biomason-photos

Modern Meadow Leather
Modern Meadow Leather
Modern Meadow, Inc.

Biotech startup Modern Meadow uses advanced tissue engineering techniques to make lab-grown leather that is analogous to leather produced from animals.P59

23.2_cinnamon-cooper

SLIPS
SLIPS
SLIPS Technologies, Inc.

Inspired by the slippery surface of the pitcher plant, this microscopic coating has applications in anti-fouling, heat exchange, and rapid defrosting. SLIPS Technologies was launched in 2014 after incubation at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.P60

23.3_credit-SLIPS-Technologies

Mango Materials
Mango Materials
Mango Materials

Using waste methane as a feedstock, Mango Materials grows bacteria that naturally produce a biopolymer. This economically competitive material can be used to create biodegradable plastic as well as conventional products like electronic casings, bottles, and children’s toys.P105

Engineered Silk
Engineered Silk
Bolt Threads

Inspired by spider silk, Bolt Threads spins yeast-produced proteins into silk. These fibers–made from water, sugar, and salts–can provide garments and fabrics with greater durability and strength.P103

 
Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
Bioinspired Hierarchical Structures
Ceralink, Inc.

R&D firm Ceralink uses laminated object manufacturing, a rapid prototyping technique, to replicate bioinspired structures for use in clean energy applications. Terrapin worked with Ceralink to secure early-stage funding.P61

Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
Shrimp-Inspired Composite Material
Nature Inspired Industries; Dr. David Kisailus (UC Riverside)

The developers of this highly impact-resistant composite material—inspired by the hard club of the Mantis shrimp—received an acquisition offer that provided initial seed investors a 10x return in only 18 months.P49

µMist® Platform Technology
µMist® Platform Technology
Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd.

Licensed to Swedish Biomimetics 3000, μMist® Platform Technology mimics the high velocity spray valve of the Bombardier Beetle to vaporize liquids using lower pressure than conventional systems. μMist could lead to more efficient combustion engines.P30

25.1_robin_24

BioWAVE™ Power
BioWAVE™ Power
BioPower Systems

bioWAVE™, a wave energy generator developed by BioPower Systems, mimics the motion of ocean vegetation. The swaying motion generates power through a unique hydraulic system undergoing testing in a 250 kW demonstration project.P31

Pilus Cell™
Pilus Cell™
Pilus Energy

Ohio-based Pilus Energy, a subsidiary of Tauriga Sciences, is currently pilot testing its microbial fuel cell technology. As modified bacteria break down organics in wastewater, they produce electricity, treated water, and useful chemical compounds.P32

 
Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
Butterfly-Inspired IR Sensor
Dr. Radislav Potyrailo, GE Global Research

GE Global Research is using Morpho butterfly wing scale microstructures as inspiration for small, highly sensitive infrared sensors.P76

 
Capillary-Cooled Injection Molds
Capillary-Cooled Injection Molds
Harbec, Inc.

Plastics manufacturer Harbec is incorporating internal cooling channels in its molds, mimicking natural flow patterns, such as vascular systems, to remove thermal energy more effectively. This will result in reduced cooling time, reduced power consumption, improved turn-around time, and increased production speed.P92

Harbec dicot

 
Schooling Fish Wind Farms
Schooling Fish Wind Farms
Dr. John Dabiri, CalTech

Engineers at Caltech developed algorithms inspired by schooling fish that decrease the amount of space required for vertical axis wind farms without compromising individual turbine efficiency.P39

 
Honey Bee Web Hosting
Honey Bee Web Hosting
Dr. Craig Tovey, Georgia Tech

Researchers at Georgia Tech developed an internet server system that adapts to user demand the way bees adapt to changing food sources: by communicating the new locations back to the hive. The system increased one web hosting company’s revenues by 20%.P18

IBM SyNAPSE Chip
IBM SyNAPSE Chip
IBM, Cornell Tech

Scientists at IBM and Cornell Tech developed a chip inspired by neural networks that increases performance during data-intensive computations and drastically reduces power consumption.P19

Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
Ant-Based Distribution Algorithm
Nu Tech Software Solutions, Inc.

Bios Group, now NuTech Solutions, studied ant foraging to develop a logistics algorithm for industrial supplier Air Liquide. Air Liquide uses the algorithm to manage plant scheduling, weather, and deliveries, which has yielded substantial time and cost savings.P20

Artificial Immune System Software
Artificial Immune System Software
Multiple Researchers

Artificial immune systems are inspired by the way higher organism immune systems detect foreign bodies and adapt to rid the body of them. These algorithms are used in computer security, robotics, and fault detection.P21

Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
Evolutionary-Designed Antenna
NASA

NASA contractors compared designs for a spacecraft antenna, one of which was developed using an evolutionary algorithm and the other using conventional engineering. The former outperformed the latter in functionality and reduced design time.P22

 
Biomimetic Investing
Biomimetic Investing
Honeybee Capital

Katherine Collins of Honeybee Capital proposed an investing framework that uses biological principles to encourage resilient, regenerative, and profitable investing activities.P84

 
Phoebe Framework
Phoebe Framework
Terrapin Bright Green

Created by Terrapin, the Framework for the Built Ecological Environment, or “Phoebe Framework,” is a suite of tools that use ecosystem-based assessment to: connect humans to natural systems; establish ecological functions and processes on-site, aligning the built environment to regional ecosystems; and integrate larger ecosystem impacts into planning and decision making. Phoebe merges sustainable design with environmental planning, industrial ecology, and restoration ecology.P85

Development

In Market

BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
BioWorld™ Oil Spill Bioremediation
BioWorld™ Products

Headquartered in California, BioWorld sells mixes of specialized bacteria that break down hydrocarbons into less harmful chemicals. These products are authorized by the EPA for use on oil spills.P7

Converge® Polyols
Converge® Polyols
Novomer

Novomer took inspiration from photosynthetic organisms and developed a process that sequesters carbon by converting waste CO2 and CO into useful chemical polymers.P8

17.1_Novomer_flickr

 
Aquaporin Inside™
Aquaporin Inside™
Aquaporin A/S

Aquaporin A/S is pilot testing a membrane system embedded with biological water channels that can filter water using 80% less energy than conventional processes.P100

19.1_Aquaporin-Inside

Biolytix®
Biolytix®
Biolytix

Biolytix markets a household wastewater treatment system that relies on worms and other organisms to filter water and break down sewage. The system uses no toxic chemicals and 90% less energy than conventional aerated sewage treatment systems.P101

GreenShield
GreenShield
BigSky Technologies

This nanoparticle-based textile finish, inspired by plant leaves, allows water droplets to roll off fabric, carrying along dirt and other particles to create a self-cleaning effect.P107

Mother Dirt™
Mother Dirt™
AOBiome

This body spray contains ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that convert the urea and ammonia in sweat—which is abrasive to the skin, causing acne and irritation—into nitrite, which fights most bad bacteria, and nitric oxide, which has anti-inflammatory properties. The novel spray reduces a user’s dependence on soap, deodorant, and moisturizer, and replenishes the skin biome killed by modern hygiene products.P89

Mushroom® Materials
Mushroom® Materials
Ecovative

Ecovative grows mycelium in molds filled with agricultural waste. The fungi bind the waste fibers together into a solid mass, which is heat treated to produce a biodegradable alternative to harmful synthetic packaging and other products.P62

21.3_mycobond

Naturally-Synthesized Film Developer
Naturally-Synthesized Film Developer
Warner Babcock Institute

The Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry synthesized a film development chemical using a bioinspired process that is safer, uses less energy, and reduces waste compared to conventional chemical synthesis.P63

Sharklet™
Sharklet™
Sharklet Technologies, Inc.

Sharklet™ surface textures are used on products like medical devices, furniture, and cell phone cases. The plastic coatings have microscopic patterns inspired by sharkskin that repel bacteria without perpetuating antibiotic resistance.P64

21.2_sharklet

WikiPearls™
WikiPearls™
WikiFoods, Inc.

Inspired by fruit and vegetable peels, WikiPearls™, developed by WikiFoods, Inc., seal food and beverages in bite-sized, edible “wrappers” that obviate plastic packaging.P65

Hairprint
Hairprint
Hairprint; Warner Babcock Institute

This hair treatment, currently designed for brown or black hair, restores gray hair to its former color. The technology mimics the hair pigmentation process and uses the natural pigment eumelanin that dictates hair color.P102

 
Interface® Carpet
Interface® Carpet
Interface, Inc.

Global carpet manufacturer Interface developed modular carpet tiles with patterns that can be laid down randomly, without glue, mimicking variegated leaves on a forest floor.P66

StoCoat Lotusan®
StoCoat Lotusan®
Sto Corp.

Building products manufacturer Sto Corp. developed a hydrophobic acrylic paint that mimics the self-cleaning properties of the lotus leaf.P67

PLAK

PureBond®
PureBond®
Columbia Forest Products

Developed by Columbia Forest Products, this soy-based glue mimics mussel adhesive. The North American panel manufacturer uses PureBond to laminate plywood without added formaldehyde.P68

VELCRO® Fasteners
VELCRO® Fasteners
Velcro Industries

This ubiquitous fastener was inspired by the miniature hooks on seed burrs that allow them to cling to looped fabric.P69

 
Voltaic Pile
Voltaic Pile
Alessandro Volta

Studies of the electric Torpedo ray and frog leg nerve responses led Alessandro Volta to build the first battery, the Voltaic pile, by stacking metal and salt-soaked discs in a similar arrangement to the discs within the fish’s electric organ.P33

ORNILUX Glass
ORNILUX Glass
Arnold Glas

After studying how birds in flight avoid spider webs, the European glass manufacturer Arnold Glas commercialized ORNILUX, a spider web-patterned UV reflective glass that reduces bird collisions by 77%.P81

IRLens™
IRLens™
Schaefer Ventilation

Schaefer Ventilation’s HotZone® Radiant Heaters rely on a lobster eye-inspired lens that focuses infrared radiation, heating a concentrated area instead of diffusing heat like standard radiant heaters.P79

 
ChromaFlair® Paint
ChromaFlair® Paint
JDSU

JDSU, a manufacturer based in California, makes brilliant, color-shifting paints that use the thin-film interference phenomenon found in butterfly wings and seashells. The company’s ChromaFlair® paint is used on cars, sports equipment, and building interiors.P77

Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
Dyesol

Dyesol’s dye-sensitized solar cells, which mimic the electron transport chain in photosynthesis, are printed on thin, flexible plastic using non-toxic, low-energy manufacturing.P78

 
Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film
Multiple Researchers

Anti-reflective films inspired by the moth eye’s microstructure improve solar panel photo absorption by 5 to 10%.P80

HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
HydRIS® Dry Vaccines
Nova Laboratories Ltd.

“Dry” vaccines, created by Nova Laboratories in the U.K., do not require refrigeration. The active materials are encased in a sugar matrix, a technique inspired by organisms that undergo anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation.P93

SampleMatrix®
SampleMatrix®
Biomatrica, Inc.

The California-based company Biomatrica developed processes akin to anhydrobiosis, or extreme desiccation, to stabilize fragile biological materials like DNA so they can be stored without refrigeration.P94

 
Arctic Fish-Inspired Ice Cream
Arctic Fish-Inspired Ice Cream
Unilever

Unilever developed a creamier, low-fat ice cream by adding an ice-structuring protein adopted from an arctic fish. The protein prevents large ice crystals from forming.P95

Tubercle Technology™
Tubercle Technology™
WhalePower

Inspired by the tubercles found on whale fins, WhalePower developed blades with bumps along the leading edges that allow for very high stall angles. Envira-North Systems in Ontario applied the technology to their high volume, low speed Altra-Air fan.P41

FE2owlet Fan
FE2owlet Fan
Ziehl-Abegg

Inspired by the silent air movement over barn owl wings, the fan can improve the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, and other ventilators by 15% while also reducing noise levels.P106

 
500-Series Shinkasen Train
500-Series Shinkasen Train
Eiji Nakatsu

The Japanese bullet train has a pointed nose inspired by the kingfisher’s beak that reduces noise and power consumption while increasing speed.P42

Lily Impeller
Lily Impeller
PAX Scientific

The form of the Lily Impeller, a highly efficient industrial mixer designed by PAX Scientific, was inspired by the aerodynamic shape of bird wings, rotating maple seeds, and other natural structures.P43

 
Ant-Based Plane Guidance
Ant-Based Plane Guidance
Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines developed an ant-inspired computing algorithm that drastically reduces the amount of time planes wait for gates to open at airports.P23

 
OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
OptiStruct® Structural Optimization
Altair

Inspired by the way bones grow, software developer Altair created structural analysis software that uses an evolutionary algorithm to find the optimum shape for components, reducing weight and materials without compromising strength.P24

Swarm Logic™
Swarm Logic™
Encycle

Inspired by bee communication, Encycle’s Swarm Logic™ systems reduce a building’s energy draw, especially during peak hours, by using individual wireless controllers that coordinate when HVAC units power on.P25

Aquaponic Systems
Aquaponic Systems
Multiple Companies

Hydroponics and fish farming are combined based on the symbiotic flow of nutrients between the fish and plants. Fish waste provides nutrients to the plants, which filter the water for the fish.P86

Eco-Machine®
Eco-Machine®
John Todd Ecological Design

John Todd Ecological Design uses constructed wetlands and aquatic tanks containing various microbes, plants, and aquatic animals to filter wastewater.P87

Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis
Kalundborg Symbiosis

In Kalundborg, Denmark, over 16 industrial facilities and farms in close proximity exchange materials and energy. One plant’s waste becomes another’s raw material, saving about $15 million a year.P88

In Market
  • Advanced Materials

               
  • Agriculture

           
  • Arts & Entertainment

         
  • Biotechnology

               
  • Broadcast

     
  • Building Construction

             
  • Building Systems

                   
  • Cement & Concrete

       
  • Chemical Manufacturing

             
  • Data Centers

         
  • Electronics

             
  • Fibers & Filaments

       
  • Financial Services

       
  • Food Manufacturing

               
  • Glass Products

           
  • Healthcare

               
  • Household Goods

       
  • HVAC & Refrigeration

                 
  • Industrial Machinery

               
  • Lighting

     
  • Metal Manufacturing

       
  • Mining

       
  • Oil & Gas

           
  • Optics & Imaging

           
  • Paints & Adhesives

           
  • Pharmaceuticals

       
  • Plastic Products

           
  • Power Generation, Distribution & Storage

                   
  • Software

     
  • Telecommunication

         
  • Textiles & Apparel

     
  • Transportation

           
  • Utilities

                 
  • Warehouse & Distribution

         
  • Waste Management

             
  • Water Treatment

             
  • Wood Products

     

Bioinspired Innovation: An Economic Engine


This section was prepared for Terrapin by the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute. It forecasts the economic impact that bioinspired innovation will have on gross domestic product and job growth by 2030 ($425 billion and 2 million jobs, respectively). Recent research and publications have established the Institute as a thought leader on the economic potential of bioinspired innovation. The Institute is a strategic unit of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California.


It is becoming increasingly clear that innovation and technological breakthroughs are not only keys to economic growth in the twenty-first century but also are necessary for human prosperity. The millions of materials and systems found in nature are a treasure trove of innovation, and companies can benefit by using these designs to reduce the time and costs associated with technology and product development. New channels of innovation, new products and markets, increased efficiency, and sustainability goals can all be realized through bioinspired innovation.

Many companies have profitably pursued the path of biologically-inspired innovation. Biomatrica, a rapidly growing biotechnology company, licenses a system for preserving and stabilizing biological samples based on processes observed in brine shrimp. Interface, the world’s largest manufacturer of carpet tiles, developed its best-selling product line by mimicking the random colors and patterns of the forest floor. PAX Scientific—founded on the insight that human hearts, birds in flight, and falling maple seeds use vortices to move fluid efficiently—has designed and sold their vortex water technologies to more than 1,000 customers, greatly reducing energy consumption at each installation.

While some concepts inspired by nature may disrupt existing markets, others may open up entirely new ones, as was the case with Qualcomm, which acquired the company Iridigm to form Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, or QMT. QMT developed low power, color display screens that can be viewed in full sunlight, a technology inspired by the way light interacts with the surface of butterfly wings. In recent years, the technology has been used in e-readers and smartwatches, allowing Qualcomm to enter into the electronic display market.

Sustainability initiatives are often driven by governmental regulations or the whims of individual managers. However, regulations can shift when economic growth or jobs appear to be in jeopardy, and a firm’s management team may serve only a limited tenure. Shareholders will always look at underlying returns and profitability, but individuals and investment firms are increasingly considering environmental and social concerns. Bioinspiration offers a bridge between the seemingly incompatible interests of business and the environment. It is a compelling “win-win” approach: bioinspired innovation enables businesses to realize profit while also achieving sustainability goals.

TRANSFORMATIVE IMPACT

Bioinspired innovation has the potential to transform large segments of the U.S. economy by increasing both gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. The Fermanian Business & Economic Institute (Institute) estimates that bioinspired innovation could account for approximately $425 billion of U.S. GDP by 2030 (valued in 2013 dollars). Beyond 2030, the impact of bioinspired innovation is expected to grow as knowledge and awareness of the field expand.

FBEI_GDPIndustries_BarChart

The industries shown in Figure 1 represent the majority of the $425 billion that bioinspired innovation will contribute to 2030 GDP. The largest single-industry contributions are expected in building construction (including the cement and concrete sector), chemical manufacturing, and the power generation, distribution, and storage sectors. Some of the largest impacts of bioinspired innovation will occur in the manufacture of durable and nondurable goods due to the increased use of new bioinspired materials and processes. Also, there is a strong link between bioinspired innovation and energy; the transportation, oil and gas, and utility industries all stand to benefit from, or be transformed by, bioinspired innovation. In total, these sectors represent $113 billion—more than a quarter of the total forecasted GDP related to bioinspired innovation.

While bioinspired products will impact the economic performance of fields as diverse as transportation, electronics, and food manufacturing, they will also increase employment in these sectors. Reflecting the expected penetration in various industries, bioinspired innovation could generate approximately 2 million jobs by 2030 (see Figure 2).

FBEI_Jobs_Industries_BarChart

TRACKING ACTIVITY IN BIOINSPIRED INNOVATION

The Da Vinci Index 2.0, which was created by the Institute, is derived from a comprehensive database that uses advanced methodology and information to measure activity in bioinspiration, biomimicry, and biomimetics. The Index monitors the number of U.S. patents issued, scholarly articles published, grants awarded by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, and the value of those grants for any given period. By extension, the Index offers insight into technologies in development at universities, research labs, and corporations. Granular data within the Index provides information on which fields of study are receiving the most attention and which regions of the world are most active in bioinspired innovation.

FBEI_Da Vinci Index chart

The Da Vinci Index 2.0 (see Figure 3) is estimated to have reached a record high of just over 900 in 2014 (where the year 2000 equals 100), mainly due to a surge in published scholarly articles and steady growth of patents. The strong trend indicates the continued growth of bioinspired research and technology development. Compared to the keen interest recently expressed in “green tech,” bioinspired innovation offers less risk since it is less reliant on varying regulations (e.g., mandates for alternative energy sources or reduced pollution) and subsidies, which also fluctuate. As with any cutting-edge research, the challenge is to transition from compelling preliminary studies and ideas to tangible implementation and commercialization.

While total utility patent applications in the U.S. increased about 100% between 2000 and 2014, bioinspired patent activity has been much more active. Utility patents in the U.S. related to bioinspired innovation grew by nearly 750% relative to 2000 filings. Though investment returns for the bioinspired products developed from these applications will vary, investors looking for new ideas and investment opportunities will direct increasing amounts of capital to the field as it becomes better known through documented successes.

THE FUTURE OF BIOINSPIRED INNOVATION

Although bioinspired innovation holds enormous potential for the global economy, it still has far to go to fulfill its promise of transforming large portions of our economy. The vast majority of Americans, including company leaders and government policymakers, are not yet familiar with the idea of looking to nature to solve human challenges.

Bioinspired innovation clearly represents an appealing niche for financial and investment markets. It is an area that the Institute expects will provide sizable growth and profit opportunities to companies and financial service providers alike.


Carbon

Carbon is an integral part of life’s “economy.” Unlike the anthropogenic buildup of carbon in the atmosphere and ocean, carbon is used by organisms to accomplish functions, and it is exchanged in cyclic flows between organisms and regional ecosystems. The abundance of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) should be viewed as a ubiquitous resource and business opportunity.9  Achieving goals like New York State’s 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, relative to 2010 levels, will require not only easily achievable measures, such as retrofitting existing buildings to reduce energy use-related emissions, but also new strategies such as reusing carbon to ensure a prosperous low-carbon economy.10 If properly funded, these additional reduction measures will come from bioinspired technology.

Copyright: Stanley Sagov / Flickr

Industries:

Advanced Materials | Arts & Entertainment | Biotechnology | Building Construction | Cement & Concrete | Chemical Manufacturing | Houshold Goods | Mining | Oil & Gas | Optics & Imaging | Paints & Adhesives | Plastic Products | Power Generation, Distribution & Storage | Transportation | Utilities | Waste Management | Water Treatment

See Graph

Selected Strategies

Capture
Mollusks capture carbon and combine it with calcium to build strong, intricate seashells.

Copyright: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr.

Carbon in the form of CO2 is captured by a large subset of organisms in our ecosystems. Plants, algae, and cyanobacteria—all primary producers—supply the base layer of materials, or carbon feedstocks, to the ecosystem. Similarly, technologies currently in development will allow industry to capture carbon emissions directly from waste flue streams. GHG emissions produced by our economy can be captured and integrated into our existing material stream, moving us toward a cyclic carbon economy. Systems and materials that use waste carbon, such as Blue Planet’s carbon-sequestering concrete, will create a much needed “sink” in the global carbon cycle and represent a huge economic opportunity for companies who accomplish this feat.11

Storage

The sequestration of carbon occurs in life’s materials; all organisms are composed of carbon-based materials. The temporary storage of carbon in the ecosystem varies from days to eons, but carbon always moves through a cyclic process. In contrast, most of our synthetic materials and fuel move linearly from fossilized carbon to landfills, oceans, and the atmosphere. Companies and researchers are mimicking natural carbon storage by incorporating waste carbon into valuable fuels, polymers, and construction materials that comprise billion-dollar markets. Artificial photosynthesis is one such innovation that is beginning to tap and even expand these markets.

Utilization

Carbon is cycled from molecule to molecule across organisms, incorporated into materials to meet various needs; the use of carbon is intimately connected to the storage of carbon. Often, stored carbon (whether from fossil or living sources) acts as a building block and as a temporary vessel for energy, allowing organisms to intake, store, and later use the carbon molecules as a material feedstock and chemical energy. Innovative companies, such as Novomer, are beginning to use waste CO2-derived molecules when creating materials.12

Existing Products

Blue Planet Products
Blue Planet Products

The production of one ton of cement typically results in the emission of approximately one ton of CO2.13 With the annual global production of cement at roughly 4 billion tons, the construction industry is a major carbon emitter.14 California-based Blue Planet has developed a technology that captures CO2 from flue gas and creates carbonate minerals to replace the Portland cement or aggregate components of concrete, or to be used in other green building materials. Their low temperature and low pressure process is inspired by the biomineralization of corals, which use dissolved CO2 to grow solid reefs. The Blue Planet process has overcome the high capital and operating costs of similar technologies. When paired with a cement or coal plant’s flue stream, the technology can produce concrete that is carbon negative. Scaled globally, Blue Planet could sequester more than 10 billion tons of CO2 over the next decade.15 This type of technology is needed to reduce the 5-7% of global CO2 emissions attributed to cement production and beyond.16 Pilot scale operations are underway in the U.S.; Terrapin is working with Blue Planet to identify potential sites in New York State.

Converge® Polyols
Converge® Polyols

Copyright: Novomer / Flickr

Conventional plastics, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, consist of chains of carbon atoms derived from petroleum. Novomer, a chemical company based in Massachusetts and New York, has taken inspiration from the carbon cycle in photosynthetic organisms and developed technologies that capture and utilize waste carbon monoxide (CO) and CO2 in the creation of valuable polymers and chemical intermediates. Their proprietary catalyst enables the low temperature (~35°C/95°F) and low pressure incorporation of CO2 into the molecular backbone of plastics, resulting in a CO2/CO-derived carbon content of 50%.17 Novomer’s Converge® materials boast high performance metrics and cost competitiveness. After scaling to a production rate of thousands of tons per year, their products are currently being used in commercial applications by several adhesive and polyurethane manufacturers, including Germany-based Jowat AG.18,19

Products in Development

Solar Fuels
Solar Fuels

Copyright: alonzo petrovich / Flickr

The emerging technology artificial photosynthesis combines water, CO2, and solar energy into liquid or gaseous fuel (solar fuels) in a process akin to natural photosynthesis. These high-energy molecules, such as methane and other hydrocarbons, hold the potential to seamlessly fit into our existing energy and transportation infrastructure. With assistance from Terrapin, Dr. Jiandi Wan of Rochester Institute of Technology is mimicking not only the system but the physiology of photosynthesizers by utilizing microfluidics and photochemistry to produce solar fuels. By emulating the small fluid channels seen in leaves, the device forces the reactants (CO2 and water) into proximity, creating a more effective platform to chemically reduce them to solar fuels.20 This elegant replication of photosynthesis takes advantage of readily-available materials and sunlight.

Water

Water, which is essential to life, is also essential to many industrial processes, systems, and energy technologies. Its presence or absence affects the energy demands of buildings, the growth and processing of agricultural products, the corrosion or fouling of materials, and the health of human populations. Increasingly, the use of water is threatened by limited access and availability of fresh water. Natural systems optimize the acquisition and use of water, gathering diffuse flows of water vapor and water from varied sources.

Copyright: Heather / Flickr

Industries:

Agriculture | Biotechnology | Building Systems | Chemical Manufacturing | Food Manufacturing | HVAC & Refrigeration | Power Generation, Distribution & Storage | Waste Management | Water Treatment

See Graph

Selected Strategies

Forward Osmosis
Some cactus spines have specialized structures to condense water vapor and funnel it into their stems.

Copyright: Manuel M. Ramos / Flickr

Almost 800 million people globally do not have access to potable water.21 Providing drinking water in an energy-efficient manner is both a necessity and a business opportunity. All organisms leverage the natural phenomenon of osmosis—the movement of water across a membrane from one concentration to another—to their advantage. Plants and animals rely on this passive transfer to extract pure water from salt, brackish, and contaminated water sources. Mimicking osmosis may lead to scalable technologies for producing clean drinking water that can be deployed globally. Aquaporin A/S uses osmosis in its low-energy water filtration and desalination technology. The use of osmotic pressure to spin turbines—osmotic power—is also under development as a renewable energy source.

Humidity Control

Moisture—at high and low levels—poses a challenge to building environmental control systems and can degrade materials over time. Plants, however, maintain high humidity levels in the interior air spaces of their leaves through simple, responsive ventilation using openings on the bottom side of leaves. Also, termites impede humidity fluctuations by means of absorbent fungal structures.22 A research team collaborating with Terrapin is investigating ways to mimic this and other strategies in a passive humidity damping device for application in buildings.

Moisture Harvesting

Much of the water that humans use is in a liquid state, but several ingenious organisms harvest water vapor. A cactus native to Mexico uses its spines to collect water droplets from fog23; the Namib Desert beetle uses its black bumpy shell to condense water vapor24; and some bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts) readily absorb moisture from the air.25 Taking cues from nature, researchers at MIT and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile have tapped this resource. Their fog harvesting mesh technology can capture 10% of the water vapor contained in fog, offering a market-ready solution for semi-arid regions like Chile, where capturing only 4% of the water content in fog would meet the water needs of the nation’s northern regions.26

Existing Products

Aquaporin Inside™
Aquaporin Inside™

Photo Copyright: WaterWorld

Aquaporin Inside™, commercialized by Aquaporin A/S, utilizes biological water transportation to filter wastewater, saltwater, and contaminated fresh water. All organisms have specialized water transport channels in their cells, called aquaporins, that selectively move water across membranes while preventing other molecules from passing through. Aquaporin A/S has embedded functioning aquaporins into water membrane technology to harness this water filtration capability.27 The technique—a form of forward osmosis—reduces energy costs of water filtration by 80% compared to reverse osmosis filtration methods, which require high pressures.28 In addition to manufacturing filters for current filtration equipment, the company has formed strategic partnerships to commercialize new applications in the Chinese and Singaporean markets.29 

Seawater Greenhouse
Seawater Greenhouse

Copyright: Seawater Greenhouse

Seawater greenhouse systems emulate the water harvesting strategy used by the Namib Desert beetle, which leverages the abundant solar resource, diurnal temperature differentials, and prevailing warm winds to condense humidity into fresh water. These systems distill seawater to grow crops year-round in arid climates where horticulture is otherwise cost prohibitive. The technology uses cool seawater, solar thermal systems, and warm, ambient air to evaporate and then condense water vapor into considerable volumes of fresh water. The Sahara Forest Project’s Qatar pilot plant deployed this system to grow high-value food crops using 50% less water than comparable operations.30 Seawater Greenhouse Ltd. and Australia-based Sundrop Farms have commercialized this technology and claim that reduced operating and fixed costs and the ability to use non-productive, inexpensive land results in up to 35% greater returns on invested capital than conventional modern greenhouses.31 

Products in Development

Humidity Damping
Humidity Damping

Termite Humidity Sponge courtesy of Scott Turner.

In collaboration with Terrapin, researchers are currently developing a humidity damping device to passively dehumidify buildings in humid climates. The device is based on the fungal combs found in Macrotermes termite colonies, which help maintain the interior humidity level of the termite mound despite outside humidity fluctuations. These fungal combs—constructed by the termites as a food source—absorb water vapor from air in high relative humidity (RH) conditions and release it during times of low RH, passively regulating interior RH. To create this device, the team is experimenting with materials that mimic the absorption properties and the complex shape of the comb. Unlike current technologies such as enthalpy or desiccant wheels, the device would greatly reduce the amount of energy currently used in HVAC systems to maintain industry-standard RH levels and low RH levels in moisture-sensitive industrial processes.32 

Materials

Materials—with their various strengths, finishes, and functions—underpin all industries, even those that involve intangible goods and services. Therefore, creating materials that provide superior performance at minimal cost is important to every business. Organisms, which “manufacture” their tissues at ambient conditions using locally available materials and energy, offer myriad examples of resource-efficient material manufacturing. Nature constructs these materials with a vast array of functions unsurpassed by many synthetic materials. It accomplishes this through nanoscale precision, using chemical elements in different proportions and atomic arrangements than synthetic materials.

Copyright: Frank Starmer / Flickr

Industries:

Advance Materials | Agriculture | Biotechnology | Building Construction | Cement & Concrete | Chemical Manufacturing | Fibers & Filaments | Food Manufacturing | Glass Products | Healthcare | HVAC & Refrigeration | Metal Manufacturing | Oil & Gas | Paint & Adhesives | Plastic Products | Textile & Apparel | Waste Management | Wood Products

See Graph

Selected Strategies

Multiscale Structures
The marine Sand Castle Worm constructs elaborate structures with a waterproof adhesive that has inspired surgical glue.

Copyright: kqedquest / Flickr

Many biological materials have impressive levels of tensile strength, hardness, toughness, and other material properties unmatched by many of today’s engineered materials. This is achieved in part through hierarchical ordering of material. At the nanoscale, seashell nacre is composed of calcium carbonate crystals deposited in a protein and carbohydrate matrix. These assemblies then form stacked tiles at the microscale. This multiscalar assembly, visible at the millimeter scale as 3mm thick layers, transforms brittle chalk into a tough ceramic. The structure of nacre has inspired tough, deformable glass.2,33 Similarly, the waterproof adhesives produced by mussels owe their strength and stickiness to hierarchically crosslinked fibers. This attribute inspired the development of several biodegradable adhesives.

Functional Surfaces

Microscopic surface textures and chemical properties imbue biological materials with an astounding array of functions. Lotus leaves have waxy microscopic bumps that allow water to roll off and carry away dirt and particles. This “lotus effect” inspire