Investigating environmental burdens and benefits of biologically inspired self-cleaning surfaces

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Author Name: 
Raibeck, L., Reap, J., Bras, B.
Publication Title: 
CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology 1 (2009) 230–236

Biologically inspired sustainable engineering seeks to abstract ideas from nature and apply them in engineering to improve environmental performance. ‘‘Self-cleaning’’ surfaces, which repel water and aid in contaminant removal, stand as one example. While statements touting their benefits appear in the literature, limited scientific data exists. This article contains a life cycle inventory that quantifies the potential environmental benefits and burdens associated with using these surfaces. While use phase benefits are apparent, production burdens can outweigh them when compared with other cleaningmethods. This outcome suggests the need for a more thoughtful and deliberate use of bio-inspiration in sustainable engineering.