Inspired by jellyfish to try to create mathematical models that capture their efficient swimming motion, Caltech professor John Dabiri is making a contribution to dramatically more efficient wind turbines and underwater propulsion systems. BloombergBusinessweek:
Before being smitten with jellyfish, Dabiri had planned to return to his hometown of Toledo and work, like his father, in the auto industry. Biology-inspired engineering captivated him, though. The underwater propulsion system he’s building will sit on the back of a ship and modify a propeller’s backwash so that it takes the shape of a vortex, jellyfish-style. 'The first time I mentioned this to a Navy officer, he laughed,' Dabiri says. He’s testing the gadget in a 130-foot-long water tank in one of his labs and hopes to have it ready in 12 to 18 months.
It's just another demonstration that breakthroughs don't necessarily come from working harder in the same direction, but by changing direction, by thinking across domains that appear at first glance to have little in common.