Biomimicry Breakthrough: Butterfly Wings Could Lead to Better Solar Panels

A Butterfly-Powered Future?

Biomimicry is the act of applying biological principles to to human designs. Velcro is the most obvious example (see more of them in our Nature-Inspired Innovations slideshow). The latest discovery has to do with butterfly wings and solar cells. Read on for more details.

Technical Details on Butterfly Wing Inspired Solar Panels

The whole paper is available online here. Here's the abstract:

We studied a novel photoanode structure inspired by butterfly wing scales with potential application on dye-sensitized solar cell in this paper. Quasi-honeycomb like structure (QHS), shallow concavities structure (SCS), and cross-ribbing structure (CRS) were synthesized onto a fluorine-doped tin-oxide-coated glass substrate using butterfly wings as biotemplates separately. Morphologies of the photoanodes, which were maintained from the original butterfly wings, were characterized by scanning and transmission electron microscopies. The results show that the calcined photoanodes with butterfly wings’ structures, which comprised arranged ridges and ribs consisting of nanoparticles, were fully crystallined. Analysis of absorption spectra measurements under visible light wavelength indicates that the light-harvesting efficiencies of the QHS photoanode were higher than the normal titania photoanode without biotemplates because of the special microstructures, and then the whole solar cell efficiency can be lifted based on this.

In short, what they have found is a way to (probably) make dye-sensitized solar cells more efficient and less expensive. These cells are a relatively new type of thin-film solar cells. According to Science Daily:

Laboratory tests showed that the butterfly wing solar collector absorbed light more efficiently than conventional dye-sensitized cells. The fabrication process is simpler and faster than other methods, and could be used to manufacture other commercially valuable devices, the researchers say.

This reminds me of other solar + biomimicry examples:

Moth Eyes May Hold Secret to Better Solar Panels and Hairy Solar Panels Could Result From Nanowire Breakthrough.

There's a lot we can learn from evolution's work. After all, it had a lot longer than us to go through a trial & errors process that improved things in slow increments.

Via Chemistry of Materials Journal, Science Daily

Photos: ACS

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Tags: Alternative Energy | Animals | Solar Power