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Solar Wasps

January 20, 2011

Wasps that harvest the sun’s rays could inspire solar cell design.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Sunlight-harvesting hornets …I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A type of insect known as the oriental hornet harvests the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and turns it into electric power through a process known as the photovoltaic effect.

DAVID BERGMAN (Tel Aviv University):
They use it apparently for cooling their bodies, maybe for other things, too.

HIRSHON:
That’s theoretical physicist David Bergman of Tel Aviv University. He and his colleague Marian Plotkin recently incorporated the chemical substance making up the yellow body stripes on the wasp’s body shell into a solar cell to see if it would absorb UV light and turn it into electric power.

DAVID BERGMAN (Tel Aviv University):
And it seems to work. It’s very inefficient, but it opens a variety of possibilities.
Maybe the hornet knows how to do it more efficiently.

HIRSHON:
With more study, he thinks the hornet’s stripes could lead to improvements in solar power generation. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.