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Solar Butterflies

October 31, 2017

A butterfly’s wings inspires more efficient solar cells.

Transcript

Common_Rose_Butterfly flickr Jibesh Patra CC BY-SA 4.0

A black butterfly, Pachliopta aristolochiae. (Jibesh Patra/flickr/CC BY-SA 4.0)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Solar powered butterflies. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The black butterfly thrives in environments too cool for other butterflies, because its dark wings absorb sunlight and convert it to heat. And according to Caltech biomaterials scientist Radwanul Siddique, the wings have microscopic pits and ridges that increase their ability to absorb solar energy when the sun is at an oblique angle.

RADWANUL SIDDIQUE (California Institute of Technology):

So these butterflies, if they sit and the sun moves, they will absorb the same light.

HIRSHON:

In the journal Science Advances, Siddique and his colleagues report analyzing and then replicating the butterfly’s remarkable solar harvesting abilities.

SIDDIQUE:

So we use a similar concept, not using the biopolymers, we use synthetic polymers, not exactly, but on the same scale.

HIRSHON:

The work could lead to solar panels able to harvest sunlight effectively regardless of the sun’s angle—just like the butterflies.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Story by Bob Hirshon