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Examining Efficiency in Bioinspired Design

[+] Author Affiliations
Julia M. O’Rourke, Carolyn C. Seepersad

The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Paper No. DETC2013-13147, pp. V005T06A006; 17 pages
  • ASME 2013 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 5: 25th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology; ASME 2013 Power Transmission and Gearing Conference
  • Portland, Oregon, USA, August 4–7, 2013
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5592-8
  • Copyright © 2013 by ASME


In what ways and to what extent are bioinspired designs (BIDs) and the biological systems that inspire them ‘efficient’? The answer to this question provides insight into the potential role BID could have in the generation of energy- and materials-efficient designs. By qualifying and clarifying efficiency-related claims in the context of biological evidence, this paper contributes to the theoretical foundation for BID for efficiency and provides guidance to those developing design tools and methodologies aimed at using BID to enhance the efficiency of engineered products and systems.

This paper is organized into three main sections. First, a study is presented examining the reasons authors in the BID community cite when motivating their work. Of the 127 sources analyzed, 40 referenced ‘efficiency’, establishing empirically that efficiency of BIDs and the biological organisms that inspire them is a central motivation for work in BID.

Second, efficiency-related claims most commonly made by authors in BID are explained and analyzed using authoritative biological and BID literature. Ultimately, some of the claims prove problematic. However, when qualified appropriately, these claims provide significant insight into how the oft-cited examples of efficiency in biology and BID have arisen.

Finally, a study uncovering trends in sustainable BIDs is presented, and the efficiency-related trends are discussed. This study provides examples of some efficiency-related characteristics of biological systems that are successfully being transferred to engineered products and systems through BID. Specifically, the sustainable BIDs analyzed are shown to frequently meet four efficiency-related green design guidelines (GDGs) better than functionally-equivalent non-bioinspired alternatives. Additionally, passive mechanisms, multifunctional designs, and optimized geometries are discussed and shown to be prevalent in the sample of sustainable BIDs studied.

Copyright © 2013 by ASME
Topics: Design , Biomimetics



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