While watching the TED talk on biomimicry, I was especially fascinated by the comment that “there [are] organisms out there that [have] already solved the problems that [others have] spent their careers trying to solve” (3). One interesting example of this is with renewable energy. Although scientists all over the world are trying to come up with good solutions, plants have always been able to produce their own.
Our design for a sickle cell anemia test strip has included this concept without our intention. Specifically, for our test, we are creating a lateral flow test device, which uses a nitrocellulose membrane to run blood samples over test lines. This concept of capillary action, where water is passively moved along a membrane by molecular attractions, is actually seen all over nature. For example, the thorny devil or moloch, an Australian lizard, uses capillary action to collect moisture and funnel it into its mouth (1).
This concept is also something that may impact our product in the future. For example, drones are being considered for the delivery of many medical products to remote villages. If other organizations find success with this method, we may want to consider using drones for our test strip distribution as well. Current drone research is using biomimicry to solve the problem of navigation in the dark, by looking at bat sonar. In this way, biomimicry could serve as a model for our test strip in multiple ways in the future (2).
One of life’s principles that I thought was especially interesting is “optimize rather than maximize.” I believe that this concept could apply to our work in many different ways. For example, one concept of this principle is that “social enterprises are designed so that others can build on to them” (4). With our sickle cell anemia diagnostic tool, we are trying to develop a low-cost, easy to use lateral flow device that is sensitive, but does not require blood dilution. Once the basic technology for this goal is established, it could easily be applied to other tests by simply changing the test line antibody.
Cradle to Cradle
Similarly, the Cradle to Cradle design concept can also be applied to our test strip. This concept stresses that everything is a resource for everything else, and that a major goal should be a “healthy and just world, with clean air, clean water, soil, and power” (5). This concept will be especially important for our test strip when we start to think about a test strip case, packaging, and distribution. In each of these manufacturing stages, we should try to integrate clean and sustainable processes, such as by minimizing plastic use in packaging.
Over the years, I have learned many interesting facts from my friends. For example, while studying abroad, I spent a lot of time with people who were studying public health, gender studies, and anthropology. One interesting concept that they explained to me was positionality. Positionality is the practice of observing ones own relation to others, and understanding the implications this has on what we observe. This was an especially important concept to understand while studying abroad, since as a white westerner, my positionally gave me access to a lot of unique experiences, while also preventing some locals from ever completely opening up to me. Additionally, I have learned many fun facts about space from my friend, who is fascinated by astronomy. For example, she told me that the nearest major galaxy is 2.5 million light years away, but that the farthest a human being has ever gotten from earth is 1.3 light seconds. I found this fact especially interesting since it puts everything in to perspective, and highlights just how little humans actually understand. Finally, another friend once told me that Coca Cola tastes better in South America. I thought this was very interesting, since the difference in taste is due to different food regulations in South America, preventing some forms of sweeteners. I thought this was interesting since it puts into perspective how much of an influence governments have in our daily lives, and makes you think about just how many artificial ingredients are in everything we eat.
4. Samir Patel & Khanjan Mehta; Life’s Principles as a Framework for Designing Successful Social Enterprises