Biomimicry: Studying the Gular Mechanism in Pelicans to innovate Rainwater Harvesting Systems

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(Pelican Dreams by Judy Irving ; Available at : https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pelicandreams/pelican-dreams)

I observed Pelicans at St. James’ Park and was quite intrigued by the dives and the expandable mouth pouches that help them store water and fish temporarily.  According to the National Geographic, the pelicans use their pouch to catch their prey and then tip it back to drain the water and swallow the fish immediately after. What is fascinating about this mechanism is that the pouch, which is called the Gular can approximately  hold upto 3 gallons of water. The flexible Gular can expand both horizontally and vertically which increases the storage capacity.

This simple yet unique mechanism can inspire innovation in the field of agriculture, specifically for the purposes of rain water harvesting and storage. In 2012, a team of researchers at Harvard discovered a highly elastic and tough biocompatible hydrogel that had the ability to stretch to 21 times its length and had the ability to recoil and regain its original shape. In 2016, the Sakai Tei/Chung lab posted a video of the Tetra-PEG hydrogel that is composed of 90% water and is highly elastic and strong.

The current rainwater harvesting systems requires several components and have limited storage capacity. A DIY Rainwater harvesting system would look like the image below.

rainwater-harvesting.jpg

(https://msb1959.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/water-conservation/rainwater-harvesting/)

The availability of highly elastic and strong materials that are biodegradable opens up possibilities of new rain water harvesting mechanisms that are cost-effective and portable. My proposal for the Biomimicry innovation inspired by the Gular Mechanism of Pelicans is as follows.

Biomimicry_Pelicans-01.jpg


National Geographic, Pelicans, Available at: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/group/pelicans/ (Accessed: May 13 2017)

Harvard(2012),Tough gel stretches to 21 times its length, recoils, and heals itself, Available at: https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2012/09/tough-gel-stretches-21-times-its-length-recoils-and-heals-itself, (Accessed: May 13 2017)

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