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Norwegian Student Team Designs a Nature Inspired, Eco-Friendly Hand Dryer
Adam Kenvarg
July 26, 2012 - 4:29pm

Biomimicry, the study of nature and its systems as inspiration to solve human problems, has been applied to design in many forms—from buildings, to wind turbines, to bullet trains. Recently, one of the participating teams in the Biomimicry Institute’s Student Design Challenge looked to nature to inspire the design of a public hand dryer.

Product Rendering

A rendering the final product, in different colors

 

A student team from Norway, calling itself Norwegian Blue, set out to apply biological systems to the development of an eco-friendly product. After much research into various topic areas, including energy generation and building heating, they settled on designing a product that would address excessive energy use and paper waste that occur from drying our hands in public restrooms. 

Then they asked the question: “How does nature handle the release of excess water?” It led them to base their design on the natural behavior for animals and humans to shake.  In their research, they discovered that most mammals shook their wet fur ferociously from side-to-side. 

Shaking Dog

A dog shaking to dry off (from Flickr)

 

For hands or paws, however, humans and some animals did an energetic vertically movement two-or-three times. After shaking, leftover moisture was left to air-dry, or rubbed off on an available surface. They concluded that they should provide an optimized available surface for rubbing off excess water after someone shakes their hands dry.   

Other criteria they set for the product included that it needed to be permanent, to be used over and over again, and the total environmental impact of the product’s lifecycle should be less than existing solutions. From observing the natural curve of different hands when relaxed or dragging along a surface, they came up with different shapes and sizes.

Product Sketch

A sketch of the potential proportions of the design

 

The final design is a two-humped rubber or flexible plastic piece, coated with a lotus leaf-inspired coating to reject water, debris, and bacteria (similar to Lotusan or similar coatings).  It is designed to be available in an array of colors, and it fixes onto the front of a sink. With counter-crossing grooves, it follows the landscape of the human palm, and also (theoretically) captures bacteria while removing moisture, a key consideration.

Final Product Render

A final rendering of how the design would look and act

 

This team project is a unique example of the application of nature’s systems that also aims at reducing the environmental impact of a task that most of us take for granted —hand drying in a public restroom. It should make us all wonder what other common tasks of our daily life can be improved with nature as the inspiration.  

 Download the team's final presentation.

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