From time to time we post stories about appropriate technology that changes people’s lives. The Lily Impeller is an amazing example of biomimicry that shows the power of working with nature. Biomimicry related research is leading to an array of appropriate technologies and now hundreds of products like the Lily Impeller are entering the market.

From the Biomimicry Institute: “Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.”

“Nature likes spirals, from whirlpools or hurricanes, to the way sap flows up a plant, to the shape of a human heart. Inventor Jay Harman, of the engineering research and product design firm PAX Scientific Inc., used this archetypal shape from nature to design a “frozen whirlpool” as the rotary part of a machine or pump. Harman’s frozen whirlpool, about the size of your hand, can stir ten million gallons of water in a storage tank with just a couple of light bulbs’ worth of power. This design keeps water tanks clean, without the use of chlorine or other chemicals. Harman is working now to scale up his frozen whirlpool to clean the air of a whole city.”

“Inventor Jay Harman of PAX Scientific describes the motivations and inspirations behind his innovative Lily Impeller, and the need for businesses to embrace sustainable design. Read the full story on Harman’s inventions at
Jay Harman – The Nature of Innovation


Biomimicry: The Lily Impeller — 5 Comments

  1. Could you use this in a homestead water storage tank to keep the water fresh? A natural swimming pool?
    Can it be run on solar? Any idea on cost?

    • They’re selling to huge municipal water suppliers so I imagine they’re fairly expensive, not a home product. It took the inventor many years to design the Lily impeller and they’re probably trying to recoop their investment. Patents, etc. are very expensive. Maybe some day the cost will come down for use in smaller projects.

  2. Similar in nature to the “slingers” used in the early BMW motorcycle engines that used centrifugal force to separate dirt particles from the engine’s lubricating oil.

    • I’m interested in how biomimicry can be used in affordable housing and homesteading. Those towers that make ice in the desert and cool pantries come to mind. Some day scientists will unlock the secrets of atoms and physics to make nearly free energy.

  3. I debated to myself for a long time if I should publish this story because at first glance it seems off topic. But the more you look into biomimicry the more you realize the power of nature and begin to wonder how it can affect our lives. The Lily impeller is just one example. Follow the links to learn more. Imagine a tiny mixer not much larger than your hand stirring a giant municipal water tank the size of a football field. Scientists told Jay Harman his invention would never work, but they underestimated the power of nature.

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