Butterfly Wings Help Developing New Gas Detection Sensors

Posted: Sep 1 2015, 7:35am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Butterfly Wings Help Developing New Gas Detection Sensors
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  • Tropical Blue Butterfly Wings could be used for Gas Detection Sensors

A tropical blue butterfly’s wings could be used for gas detection purposes.

Who hasn’t looked at the beautiful iridescent wings of a butterfly. They inspire admiration and envy in the mind of the onlooker. It is indeed a wondrous creature made by the delicate hands of Nature. Well, science has news for you.

The wings of the tropical blue butterfly could be used in the future for gas detection. A certain chemical in them is prone to sensing gases in the atmosphere. Scientists have managed to mimic the chemical structure of the Morpho butterfly’s wings. The result is a spanking new gas sensor.

The research, published in the highly respected scientific journal, Nature Communications on September 1st.

The applications of the novel sensor are many. From hospitals to industrial complexes and the army, the uses of the piece of equipment are multiple in nature. The various gases in the atmosphere cause changes in the colors of the butterfly’s wings.

The bionic sensor is something altogether out of this world. The visible differences and color changes on the surface of the Morpho butterfly’s wings say it all. They have lent a clue to scientists. And this will help science and its sister field, technology immensely. Sensing devices and detection gadgets will be the order of the day in the future.

Professor Pete Vukusic, one of the authors of the research and part of the Physics department at the University of Exeter said: "Bio-inspired approaches to the realisation of new technologies are tremendously valuable.

"In this work, by developing a detailed understanding of the subtle way in which the appearance and colour of the Morpho butterfly arises, and the way this colour depends on its local environment, our team has discovered a remarkable way in which we can advance sensor and detector technology rapidly."

There are very small dendrites on a nanoscale level on the wings of the Morpho butterfly. They are responsible for its highly colorful visual display. The chemical composition is such that vapor molecules condense in a radically different manner on the top of the wings than on the bottom.

This selective sensitivity is the crux. It leads to the gas sensing capability. The colorimetric sensors are something from a sci-fi novel. They are light years ahead of standard gas sensors. The good thing is that they are not complicated and have stability. And the price is reasonable to boot.

Currently, the gas sensors used in the industrial business are not up to par. They have faults and defects and are a far cry from the safety and stringency levels required. With this brand new discovery, this could all change for the better.

Many are the times when mankind has imitated Mother Nature to his benefit. From using bat echolocation in the form of the radar all the way to copying half a grapefruit as the model for aircraft shelters, man is truly the measure of all things.

Our species is the paragon of animals and the epitome of creation. There lie many closed doors which will open in the future thanks to man’s curious nature.

Dr. Radislav Potyrailo, the study's lead author and Principal Scientist at Global Research's headquarters in Niskayuna, New York, said: "Material-design principles applied in nature impact many scientific fields. We found the origin of the unusually high gas selectivity of the wing scales of Morpho butterflies and fabricated a new kind of gas sensor based on these principles."

"These new sensors not only selectively detect separate gases but also quantify gases in mixtures, and when blended with a variable chemical background. Our next goal is to make these sensors in a cost-effective manner to offer new attractive sensing solutions in the marketplace."

Dr. Timothy Starkey, researcher at the University of Exeter, said: "Our research into these bio-inspired sensors demonstrates the huge value in applying the scientific learnings from the biological world to develop technologies for real world applications."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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