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Resource Fix: A bio-inspired material that changes shape

Have you ever watched a time lapse of a pine cone as it dries or absorbs moisture? Pine cones, which are comprised of connected layers of material, change shape in response to moisture. The shape change occurs because of the alignment of fibers within the layers - one layer moves in one direction, bending the cone’s scales.

Inspired by pine cones, scientists have been developing similarly responsive materials. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have layered materials in precise directions to achieve different types of movements, like curling, bending, and twisting. By using an iron-oxide coating, they have found a way to create self-shaping objects that could be made from a variety of materials. There are potential industrial applications (ceramic parts that shape themselves rather than being pressed into shape), as well as medical applications (medical implants that take shape once they’ve reached proper destination inside the body).

As scientists learn more about how nature achieves certain properties or functions, they’re developing more precise and adaptable applications. What other recent biomimicry developments have you seen? How might they impact resource performance in your industry?

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Resource Fix: Open source for biotech

3D bioprinters are sophisticated machines that can print biomaterials such as blood vessels or skin tissue. While critically important to the future of medical research and technology, their complexity makes them accessible only to a small group of users with institutional budgets and extensive training. Until recently. A California researcher made his own 3D bioprinter on a shoestring budget using salvaged parts. He then shared his process online, making a once obscure, expensive process open source for all. As technology becomes more widely available and open source software, designs, and processes become increasingly popular, what will remain in the domain of the well-funded specialists? Should companies prepare for their processes and technologies to no longer be proprietary and out of reach of the enterprising public? How can businesses thrive when their processes are openly and widely available?

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Resource Fix: Melding Research & Commercial Viability

How many great discoveries never become a reality in the marketplace? What if there was a way to increase researchers' odds of developing work that goes further? The National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps program provides entrepreneurship training and helps researchers identify appropriate commercial applications for their work. It's one more way to capture more benefits from intellectual capital that might otherwise be lost.

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