The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge encourages innovative solutions to the environment’s problems based on replicating the practices within nature. By mimicking the biology of animals in their habitat, one entry to the competition stands out as a fix for major issues caused by river flooding.
The budding startup is named E-Colant.Net. Based out of Taichung City, Taiwan, the team members set out to help prevent the floods that affect approximately 21 million people worldwide each year. Specifically, they began addressing the flooding in Taichung and the Shalu District. Both districts were severely impacted by overflows of the Nanshi and Beishi Rivers.
Experts predict the number of people impacted by these natural disasters could grow to 54 million in the next eight years. Finding solutions comes down to a focus on the river habitat and marine animal health. That’s because, in addition to the floods ruining the home and work environment for millions of people, it also affects the soil in and along the river. It also causes erosion on the banks of the waterway, natural water filtration and biodiversity in the region.
E-Colant.Net addresses all of that with a system that helps urban rivers withstand flooding. Mirroring the shape and arrangement of fish and shark scales, marine sponges, devil’s claw, tilapia gills and heart valves, E-Colant.Net provides an effective flood prevention tool.
The system improves water filtration, redevelop animal and plant habitat and increase diversity in a healthy ecosystem. With minimal site impact, E-Colant.Net decreases river erosion and sediment accumulation. This provides a stable foundation for plants, which is a basis for the entire ecosystem.
The team discovered animals still thriving in the river, even through its degradation, which was the reason for modeling the device after them. The biomimicry aspect came in by copying shark fin patterns for water flow and a study of fish scales to create bumps. A curved surface encourages plants to attach to the unit so they can filter water and guide it deeper. The concave surface reduces water turbulence for less disruption.
“Additionally, the team referred to the gills of tilapia to filter the water entrained with sediment and used the concept of pores of the phylum porifera to filter silt,” said the organization. “In the process of guiding water to the ground, heart valves are used to prevent water backflow.”
The E-Colant.Net mimicked nature’s design elements not only to create a healthier environment for flora and fauna, but with the larger goal of protecting the surrounding community from flooding. The units, when installed into the waterway, offer a sustainable and low-interfering way to achieve this goal. The team relied on flow simulation research to find the most effective shape to capture, filter, slow and direct the current.
The project is currently in the prototype stage with the team at E-Colant.Net looking into licensing and partnerships with conservation and water and land management groups. The next step is to assess feasibility of implementation on a large scale.
Images via Biomimicry Institute