Research Papers: Design Theory and Methodology

Toward a Methodology for Systematically Generating Energy- and Materials-Efficient Concepts Using Biological Analogies

[+] Author and Article Information
Julia M. O'Rourke, Carolyn C. Seepersad

Mechanical Engineering Department,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Austin, TX 78712

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received February 25, 2015; final manuscript received May 29, 2015; published online July 14, 2015. Editor: Shapour Azarm.

J. Mech. Des 137(9), 091101 (Sep 01, 2015) (12 pages) Paper No: MD-15-1168; doi: 10.1115/1.4030877 History: Received February 25, 2015; Revised May 29, 2015; Online July 14, 2015

Energy- and materials-efficient designs are highly valued in the context of sustainable product design, but realizing products with significant changes in efficiency is a difficult task. One means to address this challenge is to use biological analogies during ideation. The use of biological analogies in the design process has been shown to greatly increase the novelty of concepts generated, and many authors in the bioinspired design (BID) community contend that efficiency-related benefits may be conferred as well. However, there is disagreement in the field as to when, how, and why efficiency-related benefits might arise in BIDs. This work explores these issues in-depth. A review of BID literature and an empirical study of BIDs lead to a better understanding of the types of efficiency advantages conferred by BID and set the stage for the development of tools and methods to systematically generate more energy- and materials-efficient design concepts using biological analogies.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Spectrum depicting the varying extent to which authors affirm the efficiency-related archetypal claims found in BID literature study. References cited in the figure are Refs. [10-13].

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

The shape of the bionic concept car is an optimized geometry inspired by the boxfish. Image credit: Ref. [61].



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