Biomimicry Design Challenge
John Da Silva
January to April 2019
We did not place in the competition.
Dr. Robert Stevens
Dr. John Bonzo
Dr. Kevin Loope
The purpose of this project was to enter a submission in the 2019 Biomimicry Design Challenge.
The main problem we are trying to solve is the issue of energy consumption in the United States. Currently, 48% of residential energy in the United States is dedicated to heating and cooling, and we wanted to reduce the amount of energy used. Additionally, we wanted to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing modern insulation material. Therefore, our design solves two major challenges related to climate change: reducing CO2 emissions from both the energy and manufacturing sectors.
Our design is inspired by the Arctic Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula albida), which constructs paper nests in very cold environments. Specifically, we were interested in the fact that the nests are surrounded by insulation made solely of paper and air. The wasps create paper by scraping wood off nearby vegetation, mixing it into a ball with their saliva, and forming it into thin layers with their mandibles. Each nest takes hundreds of trips to build.
The paper itself is not particularly special, but the way the wasps space the layers of paper gives the nests impressive thermal properties. The gaps between each layer of paper minimize both convection and conduction, which makes the insulation both very effective and extremely cheap to manufacture.
The product design for our insulation allows for air to be trapped in small pocket of hemp fiber to reduce to the flow of air. Reduced air circulation significantly decreases heat loss, which allows buildings that use it to waste less energy. The material we used (hemp fiber) absorbs CO2 throughout its growth cycle, which can be sequestered when it is installed in the walls of buildings. Our product is thus environmentally friendly by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere while saving the consumer money on their electrical costs. The production of the insulation is simple and produces no harmful byproducts. We are mitigating the issues of energy consumption in the production and usage of insulation, and therefore reducing our collective carbon footprint.