Butterfly Wings Inspire New Solar And Stealth Technologies

Posted: May 17 2017, 11:41am CDT | by , Updated: May 17 2017, 12:00pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Butterfly Wings Inspire New Solar and Stealth Technologies
A blue Morpho buttefly on top of a solar cell. Credit: Australian National University

Researchers have designed new type of solar cells inspired by the function of tiny butterfly wings

Scientists have taken inspiration from how butterfly wings precisely manipulate light to create a new type of solar cells.

The new solar cell structure essentially mimics the scales on blue Morpho Didius butterfly wings. The Morpho Didius butterfly’s wings has tiny cone-shaped nanostructures that scatter light to create metallic, shimmering shades of blue. The blue color seems to change from light to dark when viewed from different angles. By applying similar intricate wing patterns at the smallest scale, researchers have developed new solar cell structures. These solar cells are capable of controlling the direction of light more precisely than standard solar cells.

The possible applications of this new bio-inspired solar technology, which can absorb sunlight and convert it into a source of electricity or heat, are many and varied: from creating solar panels to facilitating the design of stealth technologies capable of avoiding enemy detection. With effective light management, the efficiency of solar cells can be greatly improved.

“Being able to make light go exactly where you want it to go has proven to be tricky up until now. We were surprised by how well our tiny cone-shaped structures worked to direct different colors of light where we wanted them to go,” said lead researcher Dr Niraj Lal from Australian National University.

“There's a whole bunch of potential new applications using our light-control technique, including next-generation solar cell, architectural and stealth technologies.”

In the future, researchers are hoping to explore the possibility that all of the blue, green and ultraviolet colors of sunlight could be absorbed in the perovskite layer of a solar cell, while the red, orange and yellow light will automatically make their way to silicon layer.

These tandem solar cells consisting of double layer could one day be used to absorb certain colors. If it happens, it will become an ideal material to cover the aircrafts and to absorb radar signals.

The technology could also be used in buildings as a part of their construction and enable residents to control how light and heat passes through the windows.

“Using our approach, a window could be designed to be transparent to some colors non-see through and matt textured for others - so there are very cool potential applications in architecture.” Dr Lal said.

Researchers say the system is relatively cheap and could be used by both commercial and residential users.

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