Humans have always faced technical challenges. In seeking solutions, human engineering has often looked to natural surroundings for inspiration, or at times for mimicry, of viable analogues. Successful adaptation of natural solutions to human-engineered systems has often led to significant enhancement to the quality of human life and further consolidated mastery of the environment. Perhaps the earliest example is when primitive man, inspired by the awesome power of fire, discovered how to make it then harnessed its potential. Mastery of fire enabled humans to delve into the use of metals and to eventually establish the foundation of a manufacturing-based civilization.
In modern times, the success of the Wright brothers in building the first flying machine crowned efforts of generations of scientists, engineers, enthusiasts and inventors who were inspired by or attempted to mimic bird flight. Noteworthy is that the brothers built their machine after careful study and elaborate mimicry of the design of wing sections (particularly the camber) in birds. The introduction of a flying machine had an irreversible impact on war and peace. It further changed the landscape of human social interaction: it shortened distances and opened borders.
In between the two events - mastery of fire and building a flying device - there have been many instances where human engineering successfully capitalized on natural design analogues. Despite such success, a systematic methodology through which harvesting the rules of design in nature or employing the process of design generation in natural systems to guide or enhance human-engineered systems is yet to mature. This is primarily due to a dominant engineering culture aimed at taming nature rather than harmonious co-existence.
Faced with alarming levels of resource depletion and possible destruction of the earth ecosystem, humans are forced to reduce their industrial and manufacturing footprints. This daunting task mandates re-examination of the core philosophy that has guided human interaction with nature thus far. As a consequence, a new paradigm that blends science, technology, and natural law is currently evolving. The catalysis for such evolution is a revived view of nature as an "engineer who is facing technical challenges". Yet, despite constraints, this "engineer" is able to generate viable deterministic design solutions. These not only are in a variety of cases conceptually simple, but also are often characterized by minimum expenditure of energy: they require the least effort to implement, or construct, and maintain economy of effort when functioning.
Probing the trans-disciplinary aspects of this emerging design philosophy, therefore, is a core requirement to comprehend the essence of the fundamental changes that design as an applied science is currently undergoing.
This special issue solicits original contributions that address various aspects of the impact of natural design analogues on trends in design of human-engineered systems.
Topics of interest include but are not limited to:
- Strategy for generation of design in nature
- Design rules in natural systems
- Bio-inspired design methodologies
- Effective algorithms for successful implementation of engineering designs inspired by natural solutions
- Comparative studies of complexity in human- and nature-engineered systems
- Tribology of natural systems
- Deterministic surface design in nature
- Employment of heterogeneity in nature
- Material properties in natural analogues
- Control in natural systems
Submission of papers: 15 March, 2010
First decision notification: 15 May, 2010
Submission of revised papers: 15 July, 2010
Final decision notification: 15 October, 2010