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Chinese Researchers Unlock Secret of Butterfly Wings to Make Efficient Solar Power

Posted By Andrew Michler On April 3, 2012 @ 4:09 pm In biomimicry,Design,Environment,Green Technology,Innovation,Renewable Energy,Solar Power | 1 Comment

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, solar biomimicry, solar butterfly wing, solar power wing,

Chinese material scientists have been studying the design of butterfly wings [1] to unlock ways to make solar electricity more efficient. Inspired by the way that butterflies use their wings to collect solar heat, researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University [2] took a closer look at the wings’ makeup. What they found was a shingle-like structure whose complex shape allows light to fall to the lower layers, doubling the light-gathering potential [3]. The insight could pave the way to electric solar panels which can produce much more energy in a smaller area.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, solar biomimicry, solar butterfly wing, solar power wing,

The discovery was unveiled at the American Chemical Society [4]’s annual meeting with lead scientist Dr. Tongxiang Fan explaining how the intricate shape of the scales in the wings allows for better solar absorption. The research pivots on classic biomimicry [5] design. They looked at two species of black butterfly wings which best absorb heat. The wings are made from elongated scales layered in offset rows like shingles on a roof. Raised ridges in the scales contain tiny holes on the edge to allow light be funneled to the scales below. The technique maximizes light-gathering potential and helps the butterfly heat up quickly on a cool morning.

The scientist made a model of the wing to test its effectiveness. The model used titanium dioxide which acts as a photocatalyst [6]in splitting of H20 when exposed to light. The findings showed a doubling of the production of hydrogen from the wing design compared to a flat surface. Dr. Fan said that “the prototype is very, very effective,” and he is looking to commercialize the findings. The research looks like a promising avenue for three dimensional solar arrays [3] which capture light in more complex ways than traditional flat arrays.

+ Shanghai Jiao Tong University [2]

Via New York Times [7]

Butterfly Photo Wikicommons [8]

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URL to article: http://inhabitat.com/chinese-researchers-unlock-secret-of-butterfly-wings-to-make-efficient-solar-power/

URLs in this post:

[1] wings: http://inhabitat.com/researchers-developing-cyborg-insects-that-draw-energy-from-their-own-wings/

[2] Shanghai Jiao Tong University: http://smse.sjtu.edu.cn/en/

[3] light-gathering potential: http://inhabitat.com/mit-unveils-3d-solar-arrays-that-produce-up-to-20-times-more-energy/

[4] American Chemical Society: http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content

[5] biomimicry: http://inhabitat.com/biomimicry/

[6] photocatalyst : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium_dioxide#Photocatalyst

[7] New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/science/solar-energy-inspiration-from-butterflies.html?ref=science

[8] Wikicommons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papilio_helenus

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