10 Ray of Hope Prize finalists address environmental issues

3 weeks ago 9

Biomimicry Institute recently released the top 10 finalists in the Ray of Hope Prize program. It’s a group of inspiring startups that are aimed at solving environmental and social issues such as waste reduction and clean energy production.

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Narrowed down from hundreds of submissions, the top 10 projects will progress through a 10-week presentation, evaluation and judging program. Additionally, the goal of this competition for the Biomimicry Institute is to give viable startups a boost in scaling bio-inspired designs that solve a pressing issue. The grand prize is $100,000 and additional equity-free funding.  

Related: Biomimicry is changing the world of design in exciting ways

Founders from the teams for Ray of Hope

“Every year we see more and more breakthrough, nature-inspired companies apply to the Ray of Hope Prize, indicating that this field is growing to meet the climate and biodiversity challenges facing our planet,” said Jared Yarnall-Schane, Innovation Director at the Institute. “Among them are companies that are creating brand new chemicals and materials that are in tune with those that already exist in nature, and companies that are creating products to make critical infrastructure more efficient and sustainable.”

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The 10 participating companies include:

1. Amphibio — United Kingdom

Sustainable textiles are rare in the apparel industry, particularly in the outdoor and sportswear categories. Amphibio has addressed this issue with a PFC-free, recyclable and waterproof textile. Also, the superhydrophobic yarn mirrors water-repellent nanostructures found in nature. Unlike standard waterproof clothing and sporting goods, Amphibio textiles do not need additional chemical treatments.

A windmill with an attachment

2. Biome Renewables — Canada

Another finalist is Biome Renewables, which is on the hunt for efficient and sustainable renewable energy. The engineering and design firm has developed PowerCone, an add-on to existing wind turbines that increases energy production while reducing loads and vibrations. The company is also developing a second technology based on the movements of owls’ wings that will quiet wind turbine movement. In addition, recent wind tunnel testing in Germany revealed noise reductions up to four decibels.

Laser-generated surface textures

3. Fusion Bionic GmbH — Germany

Fusion Bionic is laser-focused on creating new textures so that they resemble those found in nature. By studying how nature addresses certain issues, the company is able to laser-generate surfaces that offer better performance without harmful chemical processes that create pollution and injury to humans and animals. Called Direct Laser Interference Patterning, the process creates surface textures that can be used as a natural ice-repellent on planes (no deicing), anti-reflective glass and antibacterial surgical implants, for a few examples. 

Mango aging by GreenPod

4. GreenPod Labs — India

Produce waste is a significant issue on both a local and international level. With a global market growing fruits and vegetables in one part of the world and shipping them globally, the loss rate is up to 40%. Therefore, GreenPod Labs is addressing the issue with nature-inspired packaging. Moreover, the sachets release plant-based volatiles’, which boosts the food’s ability to slow ripening and reduce spoilage. The process also allows some foods to be shipped without refrigeration, which is expensive and energy-consumptive.

5. Intropic Materials — United States

Plastic is one of the most ubiquitous problem materials on the planet. Intropic Material’s mission is to minimize plastic waste by placing enzymes inside the plastic to speed up degradation. The process then accelerates the breakdown of plastic, which normally takes generations, converting them into biodegradable or recyclable molecules. Better yet, the breakdown happens without creating microplastics that are all too common in the world today. 

6. Metavoxel — United States

Mimicking cellular components in nature, Metavoxel creates materials that are lightweight, yet strong enough for architectural applications. Meanwhile, the cellular geometry shared by natural materials like bone, bamboo and marine sponge acts as a model for structural efficiency that comes with a lower financial and environmental cost.

Crumb rubber compacted together

7. Mycocycle — United States

Fungi takes center stage at Mycocycle, which has developed a system for breaking down industrial waste like construction materials and asphalt. This then keeps materials out of landfills and produces a product that can be returned to the industrial supply chain in the manufacturing of new products.

8. Sóliome — United States

Sóliome has upped the sunscreen market with a product that’s safe for the environment and the consumer. Inspired by compounds in the lens of the human eye, the sunscreen protects without toxic chemicals that cause problems for the marine environment, specifically sensitive coral.

9. Strong by Form — Chile

The process copies the natural art of trees, which adapt to the elements of nature, such as wind and snow, as they grow. Further, the strength that develops in wood exposed to these conditions can be higher than manufactured products like steel. Strong by Form’s Woodflow mirrors the natural elements, creating a lightweight, high-performance biomaterial capable of replacing steel, aluminum and concrete in the construction industry. 

Display of chemical cleaning products that mimic how the liver works

10. Sudoc — United States

In an unlikely correlation, Sudoc is coming clean with chemicals that mimic the effective functions of the human liver. The cleaning products work in much the same way as the oxidizing process within the body that filters out toxins. This allows Sudoc products to remove mold, tackle standard household cleaning and be used at a commercial level as well as in municipal water treatment.

“The 10 companies selected to participate in this year’s Ray of Hope Prize give me hope for a more vibrant, sustainable, biodiverse world,” said Yarnall-Shane. “I look forward to supporting these brilliant entrepreneurs and scientists!”

+ Biomimicry Institute

Images via Biomimicry Institute

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