Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering for Process Intensification
Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, 2021, 12: 187-2015
A nature-inspired solution (NIS) methodology is proposed as a systematic platform for innovation and to inform transformative technology required to address Grand Challenges, including sustainable development. Scalability, efficiency, and resilience are essential to nature, as they are to engineering processes. They are achieved through underpinning fundamental mechanisms, which are grouped as recurring themes in the NIS approach: hierarchical transport networks, force balancing, dynamic self-organization, and ecosystem properties. To leverage these universal mechanisms, and incorporate them effectively into engineering design, adaptations may be needed to accommodate the different contexts of nature and engineering applications. Nature-inspired chemical engineering takes advantage of the NIS methodology for process intensification, as demonstrated here in fluidization, catalysis, fuel cell engineering, and membrane separations, where much higher performance is achieved by rigorously employing concepts optimized in nature. The same approach lends itself to other applications, from biomedical engineering to information technology and architecture.