Nature is pretty good at design, and can act as both a benchmark and a source of inspiration for human endeavours. A colleague worked on strategy for McLaren Cars. They were looking for someone to pit themselves against, to raise their game and wanted to look beyond Ferrari. In the end they decided they would be doing pretty well if they could compete with Mother Nature. After all, a bee can go from a very fast flight into an instantaneous brake and hover. Try beating that, car designers!
In sustainability, one approach to complex problems is ‘biomimicry.’ The bottle above is lightweight but strong. This is typically achieved by “Adding horizontal structures. The more you add, the stronger and lighter the bottle will be. The drawback of this recipe is that it ends with an industrial looking bottle.”
But this bottle’s designers looked to nature, specifically “the spiral growth principle of the fibres of the white bark pine tree.” According to the Ask Nature site “Based on the natural model of spiral growth, they developed a new design for the structures of the main body of the bottle, developing helical structures whose inclination angles vary according to the amount of vertical and horizontal strength needed at a certain surface curvature of the bottle.”
Now, a cynic might sneer that the design is no breakthrough – there are other ‘wavy’ designs on the market that achieve lightweighting without industrial ribs. But the principle of finding solutions in nature is both sound and rich. AskNature.org, the site of the ‘biomimicry institute’, might be worth a study if you believe millions of years of evolution (or ‘intelligent design’ if this is more your philosophy) have already made a few breakthroughs….