What is it about?

Achieving sustainable development on Earth requires the creation of extremely efficient systems based on biological processes, suitable for integration into ecological systems that support humans. Interestingly, these same technologies are enabling the establishment of human colonies in space and our transformation into an interplanetary species.

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Why is it important?

Historically, sustainability has been pursued as a counterbalance, through reduce, recovery, and recycle approaches, to our current wasteful manufacturing and economic paradigms. This approach, while necessary, mistakenly assumes that our current paradigm is the pinnacle of our technological development rather than a stage akin to the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages and can only be offset, not replaced. Over the past decade, we have developed bioinspired manufacturing, a new production paradigm based on biological processes, integration into existing ecologies, and ubiquitous renewable materials. This paradigm shift is developing at an unparalleled speed, growing from a theoretical concept and millimetric-size proofs of concept ten years ago to industrial scale parts of several meters, marking a new technological age, ‘the biomaterial age,’ enabling achievements beyond the reach of the current technology, such as reaching sustainable development on Earth or the establishment of isolated human colonies on other planets.


We hope this article provides a fresh perspective and instills optimism for our future. While achieving a sustainable society might seem unreachable given our current trajectory, just as becoming an interplanetary species does, history shows us that the mastery of new materials can trigger rapid paradigm shifts on a scale similar to what we need now. The future of sustainability lies in transitioning to a new technological era centered on understanding and controlling biological processes, which allows for integrating our materials and manufacturing into ecological systems. This approach, evolving rapidly from theoretical concepts to industrial-scale applications, is driven by scientific innovation rather than restriction and compensation. This paradigm shift is not only crucial for our survival through the achievement of sustainable development but also for reaching new heights as a species, including the establishment of human colonies on other planets.

Javier Gomez Fernandez
Singapore University of Technology and Design

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: On Mars as it is on Earth: Bioinspired technologies for sustainability on Earth are paving the way for a new era of space exploration, APL Materials, February 2024, American Institute of Physics,
DOI: 10.1063/5.0191443.
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