ECO – valuing the environment

Eco is the proposed name for the common currency that the West African Monetary Zone plans to introduce by 2015 in the framework of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). But besides that it is the Idea of introducing a currency that values our ecology with all its ecosystems and living organisms. The idea emerged during the Paralelo Conference 2009 at the MIS in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The conference brought together artists and designers working with media from three different countries – Brazil, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, to discuss different ways in which collaborations across disciplinary and cultural borders can enable research and new insights into global and local ecological problems. Now think tanks like the Next Nature Lab in cooperation with the Eindhoven University of Technology undertake further research into the idea of the Eco currency. Thereby is the basic concept to express ecological value in an economic manner. The Eco currency could be integrated into our official trading currencies and represent natures share of our world.

The currency would prevent detrimental effects on the environment that find their origin in economic hopelessness. viz. a common man in Brazil who owns a small part of primeval forest wouldn’t have to sell his land so it can be deforested and farmed causing high CO2 pollution. But he would be paid a fair amount of money to conserve the forest.
The details of the currency like exchange rates, implementation, appearance, etc. is still in progress but the basic approach to value environment and maybe form it into something economically rewarding coincides with many leading heads on the field of environmental activists. Interest in our ecology is a necessity to achieve environmental advancement.

Recent foundings and further research can be found on

A Scenario of ecological interest designed by the Eindhoven University of Technology.


Interest in our ecology is a necessity to achieve environmental advancement.

Pig City: A nice view for pork

The Rotterdam firm of architects MVRDV is known for its experimental design and is responsible for a good deal of the present Dutch architectural time. They proposed a futuristic concept to overcome the future pork production struggles in the Netherlands. With a production of 16.5 million tons of pork, the Netherlands is the chief exporter of pork within the European Union. In 1999, 15.2 million pigs and 15.5 million humans inhabited the Netherlands. One pig needs an area of 664 m2, including current food processing: composed of 50% intensive grain production and 50% industrial by-products. In the case of organic farming, pigs would be fed with 100% grain, leading to a required 130% more field surface due to reduced grain production. This would cause a demand of 1726 m3 per pig, including the organic food processing. This would mean that there would be only 774 m2 per person left for other activities. In other words 75% of the Netherlands would be dedicated to pigs ( MVRDV came up with „vertical farming“ instead of expanding the production grounds over the Netherlands they will rise up to the sky forming “Pig City” which comprises 76 towers, each 622 meters high and with floors measuring 87 by 87 meters on which pigs are to be kept, so called „Pig flats“. Each flat will be inhabited by an appropriate to the species’ number of pigs. Even a balcony to watch the sundown is included.

Each floor will be equipped with processing units composing a closed production circuit. An inventive water supply system and the eradication of transport during the production process shall make it eco-friendly. The pig steps into an integrated elevator and takes a ride to the butchers floor. All these aspects as well as the recycling of all used materials shall guarantee the future success of Pig City. The Dutch government partly supports the project financially.

If our future landscapes should be filled with pig skyscrapers is up for debate and I personally believe that eating a little bit less meat and being aware of what you eat would do the deal.

Look at the MVRDV’s proposal


The Lotus effect

In 1975 discovered the botanists Barthlott and Neinhuis from the University of Bonn the self cleansing capability of the Lotus flower. The scientists observed that Lotus flowers get rid of mud and dirt while unfolding their leaves in the morning. So they examined the leave surface structure of the Lotus with a scanning electron microscope discovering a not as expected smooth but a very rough structure (10-9 nano and 10-6 micro).

This rough structure is responsible for the super hydrophobic ability of the leaves. The leave’s surface has a double layer structure first it is covered by little pimples (papillae) whereupon a layer of hydrophobic wax lies. The Wax prevents raindrops from getting into the pimples interspaces resulting in only 2% – 3% of the drops surface being in contact with the leaf. Additional is the contact angle at which a liquid or vapor meets a solid surface responsible for the water-repellent. The smaller the contact angle (<90o), the flatter the droplets and the wetter the surface. The larger the contact angle (>90o) the less the area of contact between the liquid or vapor and the solid interface, leading to a closer to dry surface. The Lotus pimples create a contact angle of over 150°. These effects reduces the strength of adhesion and vests the lotus flower with a super hydrophobic surface.

In many Asian religions is the Lotus flower due to the cleanness revered as a symbol of purity.

As the Lotus effect has been introduced into Bionics it has found its way to commercial use. Today we can find the Lotus effect in the textile industry producing hydrophobic cloth. Other fields of use include glass, plastics, painted surfaces, metals and ceramics and equipped with a hydrophobic ability these products outpace competitors.


Sharp shark

In the 70’s did the paleontologist Dr. Reif a research on shark scales and discovered that especially fast swimmers like the king of the sharks – the Shortfin mako shark – or the silky shark show a very individual scale-surface structure. Due to the perfect adaptation of their habitat are these sharks capable of reaching a maximum speed of up to 90 or 60 km/h. But as Dr. Reif found out their skin respectively scale is not plane and smooth but a fluted.

In collaboration with the fluid dynamics engineer Dr. Bechert was the shark scale structure rebuilt ,tested in the wind and water tunnel and later on in a baby oil filled water tunnel. The outcome of the research is the so called riblet effect. The riblet effect takes place as the riplet peaks come in contact with turbulences in current and fluid flows rearranging the flow. This process reduces the aerodynamic or aquatic resistance.
The discovery has been used by various industrial branches. The first to make use of it was the aircraft industry in the 90’s they produced a foil with a riblet surface. The foil reduced the drag coefficient value allowing a reduction  of fuel consumption on long distance flights of two to three percent. But due to the high costs and the arduous installation was the implementation restrained to the airbus A380.

In 2000 has the riblet effect entered the Olympic stage. Australian and US American athletes were the first to compete in so called “Fast-skin” suits produced by the English company Speedo.
Other fields of use are ships protecting the hulk from fouling ( Antifouling ) or the inlayer of tubes and pumps.
Concluding did the shark provide us with a riblet effect that can be highly rewarding for technological innovations.


Bionics: When nature teaches

First of all what are Bionics?
Many dictionaries and scientists describe bionics as the composition of biology and electronics. It is the study of nature and the application of a discovered aspects to invent new technologies and engineering approaches. The technical biology can be practiced on three different fields:

  • The construction bionics ( e.g.: conveyor techniques, pneumatic- and hydraulic systems)
  • The procedure or approach bionics ( e.g.: Photosynthesis and recycling)
  • The information bionics ( e.g.: neuro-informatics)

Bionics are interdisciplinary studied by scientist, engineers, architects, designers, etc. trying to make use of natures procedures. The evolution developed outstanding methods to explore and master every territory on this planet teaching scientist millenaries of adaptation and innovation.

Leonardo da Vinci is often referred to as the historical founder of bionics analyzing the flight of birds to build the first flying machines.
Today we use numerous inventions that are originally developed by nature. For instance has the hook-and-loop fastener been discovered by the Swiss scientist George de Mestral after examining the burrs of burdock that were stuck to his dogs skin.

The helicopter finds its origin in the samara of maple trees. The medical use of bionic technology is also growing steadily inventing stronger more flexible and sustainable prosthetics.
As our knowledge and understanding of physics and math advances we are able to understand and calculate natures inventions. More and more amenities can be drawn out of biological processes providing completely new possibilities on all sorts of fields.


Solarized Desalination Plants

Experts claim that the global water deficiency poses a bigger problem for the human race than the climate change. More than a billion people do not have access to secure drinking water supply. Especially in sparsely populated areas without any infrastructure is it a daily struggle for survival.
According to UNO statistics die more than five million people (1,8 million children) yearly because of contaminated drinking water.

Desalination plants perform a possible solution for the drinking water shortage.
But conventional desalination procedures are very complicated, enormously costly, require a fully developed infrastructure and specialist to be maintained. But the major problem is the high amount of demanded energy and the undesirable environmental pollution.
A solar desalination plant’s photovoltaic panel could contribute enough energy and would not pollute the environment. Regions like Africa, Asia, South America and southern Europe that suffer the most under a lack of water could easily be provided by the combination of desalination and solar energy.
Companies like Helio Tech or I.B.M. are pioneers on this field.

IBM and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology are opening a solar-powered desalination plant in the city of Al-Khafji. The project shall provide water to about 100,000 people and pump out about 30,000 cubic meters of potable drinking water per day.
In this case the team uses a purpose-build nanomembrane that filters out salts as well as potentially harmful toxins in water while using less energy than other forms of water purification.
The solar-powered desalination plant will be the biggest on the planet and still hopefully just the beginning.



Crowdsourcing is the basic concept for public community platforms as Wikipedia or YouTube. Everybody contributes only a little part but these add up to one big community. Now crowdsourcing has established itself on the online fashion market.
The Dutch trend-spotting agency Trendwatching declared in its 2010 predictions that “this decade will see brands championing collaboration instead of an Us/Them mentality”. The consumer will drift away from a standardized passive role (buyer) and turn into an active creative designer.
The idea is that you design fashion for yourself and for others. Often online shops attract the potential designers with contests awarded by prize money. Voters decide which design wins and goes into a production series. One of the first projects was Threadless, which is based in Chicago and began a much-copied online T-shirt contest in 2000 with only $500. Its annual revenue was last disclosed in 2005, when it was $6.2 million. Many others like “Design your dream heels” a Canadian Website where customers hand in design for a pair of white high-heeled pumps. Almost every country has now its own internet t-shirt or shoe online shop. But also other fashion can be self-designed a Californian Website has monthly contests for every kind of fashion.

But why is this development so successful?
Companies support customers work by every means because it saves money. A customer is a free worker how enjoys it so much that he invests his own free time for the company. But it is not only creative work that the customer does. Georg Ritzer calls it “The McDonaldization of Society”, we order the food ourselves, we draw the soft drinks, bring it all to the table and clean after ourselves. What happened to service? Ikea sells around 4 million Billy bookcases yearly. Assuming it takes half a hour to assemble and costs 8€ per hour, Ikea already saves 16 million € yearly. A Billy bookcase is therefore not to expensive but what about a cappuccino at Starbucks? Is it acceptable to pay 3€ for a Cappuccino to go?


I think that involving communities in design and creative processes is a desirable development but we always have to be aware of what we are giving us up for.


Innovative & futuristic technologies | trends | paradigms