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Optimal branching of vascular vessels minimizes work: mammals


Lung branches / Patrick J. L.. / LicenseCC-by - Attribution

Vascular and respiratory vessels in mammals minimize the amount of biological work required to operate by being arranged hierarchically.

"The vessels found in mammalian cardiovascular and respiratory systems are usually arranged in hierarchical structures and a distinctive feature of this arrangement is their multi-stage division or bifurcation. At each generation, the characteristic dimension of the vascular segments will generally become smaller, both in length and diameter." (Barber and Emerson 2008: 179)
"The branching structures found in mammalian cardiovascular and respiratory systems have evolved, through natural selection, to an optimum arrangement that minimizes the amount of biological work required to operate and maintain the system. The relationship between the diameter of the parent vessel and the optimum diameters of the daughter vessels was first derived by Murray (1926) using the principle of minimum work. This relationship is now known as Murray’s law and states that the cube of the diameter of a parent vessel equals the sum of the cubes of the diameters of the daughter vessels." (Barber and Emerson 2008: 180)

[This mathematical structure is also found in trees and other organisms that exhibit branching]
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Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Artificial microfluidic distribution systems. Systems of miniaturized reactors and separators. Lab-on-a-chip devices.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Nano and microtechnologies

Barber RW; Emerson DR. 2008. Optimal design of microfluidic networks using biologically inspired principles. Microfluidics and Nanofluidics. 4: 179-191.
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Murray CD. 1926. The physiological principle of minimum work. I. the vascular system and the cost of blood volume. PNAS. 12: 207-214.
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over 5 years ago
Thanks to Duarte Miguel Prazeres for adding this strategy, which describes Murray's Law, a key inspiration for the new logo for Biomimicry 3.8.
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