Lessons from nature


Solar Income

Nature runs on renewable energy, it does not use more energy than it can produce itself. Nature does not create energy sources that pollute the atmosphere, and designs its processes to work efficiently.

- Life cannot exist without solar income (light and energy).

- Plants feed on sun, animals feed on plants, homosapiens feed on plants and animals,

- Sun energy is also the creator of forms and shapes...

The plants that grow on our Earth receive electromagnetic energy from the sun. Plants, using the chlorophyll in their leaves, transform that energy into chemical energy which is stored as carbohydrates. A byproduct of this process is oxygen that is expelled by the plant. In turn, we humans are energy transformers. We eat plants or eat creatures that eat plants. We inhale the oxygen produced by plants to facilitate the transformation of our food into a chemical compound called “ATP”. The purpose for ATP is to store energy for use by our bodies. The cells in our body parts, organs such as our lungs, blood, and liver, perform these energy transformations and store the byproducts.

Recently, modern science has found that energy is the creator of physical forms and shapes. These forms and shapes are created to accommodate and transform the flow of energy. For example, the sandy beach pattern, familiar to all beach combers, is created by the energy of the water that flows over the sand. The water molecules are formed into flowing streams. The water’s kinetic energy pushes the sand around to create an evolving physical pattern. The patterns are created because the sand accommodates the kinetic energy that causes water to flow.

The important point is that energy is the creative force that has formed the patterns we see.

From the shape of the universe, to the flowing water in a river, the structure of fish schools, and even human society, the entire physical world is shaped by such evolving flows of energy. Adrian Bejan calls this the “Constructal Law”. He says that natural objects are collections of networks that are created by energy flow and serve as channels for the flow and transformation of energy. Shape and structure arise to facilitate energy flow. The constructal law helps confirm that nothing operates in isolation; every flow system is part of a bigger flow system, shaped by and in service to the world around it. Everything is connected.

The idea is vital to human survival because any disruption of energy flow or transformation through energy carriers can cause major environmental changes that would affect life in Earth. Altering the flow of energy from the sun through harmful emissions is a familiar example. The necessity of the highly interconnected life process of energy transformation is why we humans must not tamper with or destroy these vital links within life.


Paolo Lugari and his colleagues of the Environmental Research Center Las Gaviotas were challenged to design a water heater that could function at 3,000 meters altitude with approximately 200 days of overcast skies. Paolo and his team opted to rethink the design and opted for the thermosiphon (simple design based on gravity and convection), eliminating any moving part and select materials that are light sensitive (luminescence-based water heating device that operates with light and not with direct sun rays). The team imposed themselves to imagine a device that only uses off-the-shelf components.

The laws of physics are very much determined by variations in temperature and pressure. Warm water expands, thus its density decreases. Warm air expands, its density decreases and the pressure is lower. Paolo Lugari was challenged to find a solar water heating system for Bogotá, a city with more than 200 days overcast. He focuses on creating warm water with light only. The sun sends energy to the Earth in the form of light and heat, but we can see and feel only a minor fraction it. Materials can absorb invisible electromagnetic waves and convert them into heat which warms water up as soon as the first light breaks over the horizon. Lugari offers a 25 year warranty for his water heaters. While this was considered an impossible challenge, now 25 years later, the heaters continue to function. The secret is that these water heaters operate without any moving parts, solely relying on the laws of physics.