My corporate sponsor, GOJO, delivers well-being through skin health and hygiene solutions. GOJO’s best known product is PURELL instant hand sanitizer. The company is very forward-thinking, so it’s no surprise they were one of the first organizations to elect to sponsor a UAkron Biomimicry PhD Fellow. For GOJO, biomimicry represented an opportunity to reach the next level of sustainable product innovation. Recently, GOJO released its 2013 Sustainability Report, which features a section on how biomimicry is helping generate sustainable value (see page 19). Accompanying the print report are video interviews, including an interview with me about biomimicry initiatives!
Midway through the video I talk about a project I worked on at GOJO where the objective was to apply biomimicry to invent next generation liquid formula dispensing systems. I want to tell you a little more about that project here.
With the help of Tom Marting, GOJO Life Cycle Analysis and Sustainability Specialist, and Nick Ciavarella, GOJO Senior New Technology and Alliances Engineer, I led a cross-functional team of GOJO employees through the biomimicry process. We researched how nature moves fluids, investigating biological models such as the rove beetle, horned lizard, spitting cobra, archerfish, bladderwort, and many more. The team identified engineering principles embodied by nature’s models and applied those engineering principles as we brainstormed novel dispenser concepts. The workshop resulted in five patent applications for dispensing systems. These patent pending systems are projecting greater than 50 percent energy savings AND two, if approved, have the potential to become platform technologies for GOJO’s entire line of liquid soap and sanitizer dispensers.
Studying biological systems sparked totally new approaches to the design challenge. The solutions we came up with use far less energy than GOJO’s current technology, which makes sense when you think about it, since biological systems are generally very energy and resource-efficient. Biomimicry also encouraged systems-thinking because in the natural world, everything is part of an ecosystem. The team realized the dispenser pump, housing, and valve might be all one multifunctional part instead of separately functioning components.
One workshop participant summed it up beautifully: “Sometimes nature can knock you the head and say ‘hey, it’s easier than that.” With that, onward with the head knocking!