Biomimicry: Lessons from Trees

Posted by on October 14, 2013

For this article, I’d like to focus on trees which are really indisputable champions of the natural world.  There is so much we can learn from them – one scarcely knows where to begin.  From sourcing nutrients, to finding and transporting water, to protection from over-predation, to the art of reproduction, trees have evolved elegant, efficient and gentle solutions to these challenges.

Trees in Urban Environment

Trees in Urban Environment

If we just look at the art of manufacturing for instance, imagine if the image below described the manufacturing processes of our human factories? First thin, we wouldn’t have to don earmuffs because production would be completely silent.  The factories would be entirely driven by solar power and would make use of low-energy processes as a matter-of-course.  In fact, processes would tap primarily into freely available physical forces as a means of reducing energy requirements – so transporting of water from basement to top floors would happen via capillary action and osmosis within wall spaces and would require only minimal amounts of electricity.  “Pie in the sky thinking” I hear?  Well, actually this is currently being researched as a distinct possibility for the built environment … so let’s keep watching this space.

In this world of climate change, perhaps the most remarkable thing about a tree’s manufacturing process is that it actually uses carbon dioxide as a building block, while releasing pure oxygen as a by-product.  Carbon dioxide is absorbed, split into carbon and oxygen, carbon becomes part of the tree and the pure oxygen is given off as a by-product!  Image that … greenhouse gas emissions no longer an issue.  And again, a similar process is the inspiration for another new biomimicry innovation.  The company, Calera (www.calera.com) is essentially producing cement that is based on the manufacturing blueprint of coral reefs.  The result is a process that for every tonne of cement produced, half a tonne of CO2 is absorbed and stored.  This is in contrast to the traditional process tat sees a tonne of CO@ being released into the atmosphere.

Cement Production

Cement Production

If we can just encourage more scientists, physicists, chemists, manufacturers to start deciphering nature’s operating codes and instruction in order to do things more efficiently, waste-free and resourcefully, imagine the possibilities. And the humble tree is brimming with secrets just waiting to be discovered.

sue swain

by Sue Swain from Bio Wise

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