Research in Bio-Inspired Complex Network Design for Sustainability
“A system is never the sum of its parts, it’s the product of their interactions” – Russell Ackoff
History has shown that nature has already evolved to include solutions to many of the problems that currently exist, and which may arise in the future. The specific aim of the research done in BiSSL seeks to provide solutions to engineering systems problems that result in industry-wide cost savings, increased efficiency and resilience, and reductions of environmental burdens. The results of this work support the view that financial competitiveness, sustainability, and resilience need not be mutually exclusive.
You can hear about applying bio-inspired design to improve the resilience of power grids with Texas A&M Engineering’s podcast SoundBytes Season 1 Episode 29.
You can learn about how inspiration from the way ecological food webs function is helping to suggest route for improving our recycling/reuse/waste economy with Texas A&M Engineering’s podcast SoundBytes Season 1 Episode 28.
Environmentally Benign Manufacturing as defined by the National Science Foundation in 2001 is “a system of goals, metrics, technologies, and business practices that address the long-term dilemma for product realization: how to achieve economic growth while protecting the environment.” Simultaneously, events of the last few decades have shown a worrying increase in major environmental and social-health disruptions. We need systems-based solutions, requiring a comprehensive systems approach e.g. the product’s design is formed in conjunction with its logistical systems and reuse possibilities while factoring in flexibility for disruptions. Clearly, this raises the level of design complexity. A framework for such a systems-based approach to balance sustainability and resilience goals is needed.
Bio-inspired product design is becoming commonplace, however using this same solution source for system design is less developed. The methods by which biotic systems reach their environmentally sustainable state are hypothesized to support the engineering of sustainable and resilient products, processes and systems. The work in the BiSSL group has demonstrated that the use of biological methods and principles can lead to environmental and resilience improvements at multiple scales. Our goal is to move ideas from biology to human systems design in such a way that they become implementable. The structure and functioning of biological ecosystems gives insight into solutions to system, and system of systems (SoS), problems regarding resilience, sustainability, and efficiency.