Sunday, 5 July 2015


Throughout the 14 week progression of this module, which was well documented in the blog upon the milestones achieved, we have learnt the key importance of biomimicry study with close relation to engineering aspect. This is defined to be as how we are able to take reference of Mother Nature’s design as a ground rule of foundation to work towards an engineering solution for the issues imposed. 

Referring to our pet adaptation project, our group has adapted the pleco fish to design a conceptual AUV which focuses upon energy efficiency aspect to further boost run time period per defined cycle, reducing maintenance cost as well as attaining better lifespan.  Taking reason as why these aspects were taken into study is because in the AUV field, it is acknowledged that these lines of products are known to be high in operational cost, resulting in low range of targeted audience. This in hand affects the research and development rate of this technology, rendering it limited in usage.

Should our project be successful in implementing the initial cause; reducing the overall cost through increasing efficiency, we would be able to grasp the attention of wider audience which in turn, increasing the overall interest and exposure upon this technology and how it could benefit the society. With a wider stance of appeal towards society, it is natural that research and improvement would follow up for a better fit to serve its specific purpose as defined by the user.

However, reflecting this idea onto our current progress, regrettably our research only covers the fundamental aspects as the commitment for a more feasible progress requires a substantial budget provision as well as significant amount of time as opposed to mere 14 weeks. It is without a doubt that our idea and design projection could serve to a greater cause as long as the aforementioned requirements; funding and time were provided.

Individual Reflection

Yorick says..
The most interesting proposed used of bio-mimicry that was developed in this blog is the Vivace energy harvester. The Vivace design mimicked the propulsion technique of the fish and come out with the ocean or river current harvester that solve the energy challenge of this century. The design that we proposed are not patentable because of the minimum requirement to patent a concept or product in Malaysia is to keep the design private and avoid from exposure to the public. While working as a team, this work become easier because each of us can distribute the tasks evenly and hence increased the productivity of this project.

Lik Hong says..
In my opinion, the most interesting proposed used of the biomimicry that was developed in the blog is the flexible bullet proof armor which inspired by fish scales. In contrast with the traditional bullet proof vest, the bullet proof armor inspired by fish scales is light in weight while still allows the bending movement of the torso while still provide adequate protection to the user. Moving on to the proposed industrial design inspired by our adopted animal, I do not think that the proposed design of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) is patentable as prior to applying for a design patent, a prototype has to be built in order to carry out testing and to validate the performance and functionality of the proposed design. The building and testing of the prototype would require huge amount of fund, which is currently lack by the team even though the design is unique. Working as a team has definitely made this project easier as each member would contributes to different parts of the project. Time taken for the completion of the project will also be shorten with the sufficient work force provided by the team members. 

Xin Ying says..
The most interesting proposed used of bio-mimicry that was developed in this blog is the surgical tool. A new surgical tool mimicked the suction cup-like discs on the belly of a clingfish increases the efficiency of laparoscopic operation which require to work through very small incisions elsewhere in the body using a lighted tube. I think our design, pleco fish inspired underwater vehicle is unique however it is not patentable as research on how humans can take advantage of the a pleco fish’s streamline shape is still in the preliminary stages. More research is needed before it becomes a reality. I strongly think that working as a team made this project a lot easier. First, we select a team leader which can take the overall coordination of the team. Then, the team leader will distribute the tasks to different team members based on their expertise accordingly. Besides, we brainstorm as a group to generate the best ideas, learn how to solve problems together as a team, respect each other’s differences and ideas.

Joe Han says..
The existence of our blog documents the overall progress of our study which was intended to adopt a pet that would be the source of inspiration in our bio mimicry design. The aforementioned adaptation deduced to be a Hypostomus plecostomus; also known as suckermouth catfish. Throughout the 14 week period study, what appealed to me the most about this fish is that it’s defensive mechanism from predators and how it had made other predators find it as an undesirable meal. The pleco fish in short, possess an organic hard topside which shields it from attacks by other aquatic organisms. Even though, its underside is soft, this would not prove to be an issue as most of the time, the fish stick to a surface, keeping its vulnerability hidden.

Through the study of organic armour, I have discovered that an invention based of biomimicry inspiration had resulted in creating a ‘Flexible Bullet Proof Armor’ which was a great improvement to the convention armour. To be able to provide equal resistance similar to the conventional bullet proof vest but exhibiting a much lighter weight and greater flexibility. This would be a great breakthrough in the military department as well as the astronauts.

As for our inspired bio mimicry design, which is the ‘Conceptual AUV’ based off our Pleco fish, I believe that we would not be able to gain patent for it. This is due to the required extensive research, countless test and simulation and also, huge amount of funding which we highly lack. Even though being a good idea in theory, our progress is far from being substantial to be patented.

In other aspects, working in a multidisciplinary team had proven to be beneficial to our project. Different expertise in knowledge had given us an advantage but not with the exclusion of minor setbacks as well. Due to the difference on our backgrounds, achieving an agreement takes longer period as multiple accounts of matter were taken into detailed consideration from our different views of perspective. All in all, our team managed to make the most of the skills and knowledge we have and enjoyed the company, as well as the constructive criticism that came along. 

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Industrial Application

As previously introduced, the Hypostomus plecostomus, as known as Pleco fish, is known as a bottom feeder, meaning this fish’s natural habitat is at the river bed or the bottom of any aquatic environment. Evolution through time has enabled this fish to adapt to its environment more efficiently. This aspect takes reference onto its semi elliptical streamline top along with a flat underside. The elliptical topside had taken a streamline shape to better redirect the underwater current in order to minimize the force acted onto the fish’s body. According to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In order for the Pleco Fish to stay stationary, it has to utilize its suction power to counteract against the current. Thus, by having a streamline body which results in lesser resistance, the Pleco Fish would require lesser energy to maintain position. Evolution such as this has enabled the fish to utilize its energy more efficiently which served as a key importance in survival.

The team’s observation had taken preference over its unique streamline shape for implication of biomimicry study. Adapting the aspects of underwater aerodynamics, the team had decided to implement it upon redesigning the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). In summary, the AUV serves its purpose of underwater survey and observation where data collection is mostly the primary task. Subdivided into three categories, AUV are primary used under these fields;

Oil and Gas industry where it is used to map the seabed in detail prior to subsea infrastructure constructions.
Study and data collection on ocean, ocean floors and lakes.
Air crash investigation
Used to find and locate wreckages of missing airplanes


What these three fields hold in common is that an improvement in terms of energy efficiency usage would deem highly beneficial under its designated purpose. Better energy efficiency would provide;

  • Operation cost reduction
  • Minimize carbon emission
  • Minimal maintenance requirement
  • Better energy distribution towards primary objective
  • Longer underwater operational period

In general, AUV’s are powered by rechargeable batteries such as lithium-ion, lithium-polymer and nickel metal hydride battery. It is common that rechargeable battery, when undergone extensive and excessive power usage would result in a significant increase of temperature internally which could potentially reduce the lifespan of the battery, as well as the connected component. Under extreme cases, it might cause damage to the sophisticated components nearby due to high temperature exposure for long period. This overall contributes to one of the factor of high maintenance cost. Thus it is believed that energy efficiency improvement would drastically benefit current AUVs. 

The proposed conceptual AUV design is as shown in figures below. 

The team had selected the aluminium grade 6061-T6 as the primary material for the outer hull construction as well as the support fixture. Reason being is that, aluminium weighs less; approximately 66.25% lighter and possess a better Modulus of Elasticity than stainless steel. Also, issues with material corrosion would be voided if aluminium is used. The properties of the aforementioned material would be tabulated as shown in figures below.

The general purpose of an AUV is to mainly take readings and monitor the condition of the environment. Sensors that are required to accomplish its task would be as listed below;

Accelerometers measure non-gravitational acceleration.
Gyroscope is to measure the rate of rotation at a defined axis.
Depth, Temperature & Pressure Sensor
Determine aquatic environment status.
Side-Scan Sonar Sensor
To create images of large areas or map or aquatic floor.
To determine location in referenced with earth’s magnetic pole.
Measuring internal change of temperature in AUV through electrical resistance fluctuation.
Conductivity Probe (EC meter)
Monitor nutrients, salt and impurities in water based on medium’s electrical conductivity.
Acoustic Doppler Velocimetry
Sensor that function detects AUV’s velocity through measuring particles velocity.
Converts pressure and brightness into electrical signals.

Long Baseline acoustic positioning
Highly accurate location and stability positioning system which relies on mounted baseline transponders that are deployed to at the seabed. Uses transponders as reference points for navigation.
Replaceable Antenna
Antenna serves a key importance in data transmitting thus was made replaceable.
Inertial Navigation System (INS)
Uses accelerometer and gyroscope to calculate dead reckoning positions, orientation and velocities without the requirement of external reference (transponders).

Data Interface Box
Data storage and provision of simple user interface for ease of access.
Laptop with Impact & Water Resistant Casing
To avoid damage and short circuitry of the devices as it could pose a threat to user due to the wet working environment.

As for the propulsion system of the proposed AUV design, ducted propulsion is chosen as it has higher propulsive efficiency, better course stability and less vulnerability to debris when compared to the usual un-ducted propulsion. A rudder could be found behind the ducted propeller for the purpose of steering the AUV thus changing the travelling direction (left and right motion) of the AUV. Two hydroplanes could be found at each side of the AUV as it controls the pitch of the AUV. Both hydroplanes are free to rotate at its neutral axis. By changing the rotational angle of the hydroplanes, a pitching moment will be introduced to the AUV while in motion, thus making the AUV to submerge or to surface. Also, the aerodynamic outer shape of the AUV also adds value to the propulsion of the AUV as drag imposed to the surface of the AUV while in motion will be minimal, thus further improving the efficiency of the propulsion system.

It is believed that the proposed AUV would work if manufactured as there are a lots of similar AUV in the current market. The only distinguish features of the proposed AUV are such that the AUV incorporates the shape of the pleco fish with flat bottom and a fish like aerodynamic outer shape. The purpose of the design is to enables the AUV to rest at the bottom of river bed when performing its task or mission without being affected by the current.

Fund could be raised by the team for the purpose of manufacturing and testing the proposed AUV. To raise a fund, the team could contact any researchers which require an AUV for their research purposes. A detailed proposal which clearly defined the details of the design with the pros and cons will allow the sponsor to decide whether to support and fund the manufacturing process. Another method which could be used by the team to raise fund is through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a new method of online fund raising through the support of strangers all around the world. In order to acquire the support from the pledgers, a series of engineering simulation could be prepared to provide evidence in the feasibility of the idea. Also, as a return for their support, pledgers could be offered with rewards such as a free tour to control the AUV in testing facility.

Biomimetics is definitely one of the tool which often explored by engineers to seek solution for their design challenges in solving engineering issues. As an example, the wing design of aircrafts are often inspired by the wing shape and pattern of a flying bird. Such inspiration is considered as reductive biomimicry as only the form of the flying birds are mimicked. In the other hand, holistic biomimicry are often utilized by engineer in solving engineering challenges. Hollistic biomimicry does not only imitates the form of a natural phenomenon, but also incorporates the whole development process of the natural phenomenon into the sustainable solution.

A. Bhattacharyya and S. Steen, “Propulsive factors in waves: A comparative experimental study for an open and a ducted propeller,”Ocean Eng., vol. 91, pp. 263–272, Nov. 2014. 

Engineering Properties of Steels, Philip D. Harvey, editor, American Society for Metals, Metals Park, OH, (1982).

Handbook of Stainless Steels, Donald Peckner and I. M. Bernstein, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, NY, (1977)

Metals Handbook, Howard E. Boyer and Timothy L. Gall, Eds., American Society for Metals, Materials Park, OH, 1985.

Metals Handbook, 10th ed., vol. 1, ASM International Handbook Committee, ASM International, Materials Park, OH, (1990)

Metals Handbook, Vol.2 - Properties and Selection: Nonferrous Alloys and Special-Purpose Materials, ASM International 10th Ed. 1990.

Structural Alloys Handbook, 1996 edition, John M. (Tim) Holt, Technical Ed; C. Y. Ho, Ed., CINDAS/Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, 1996.