Researchers at China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University studied butterfly wings to discover ways to increase the amount of useful light gathered by solar collectors.
Hydrogen, as a renewable energy source, is produced from water and sun, but they key to cracking the development of this technology may lie in the simple flutter of a butterfly’s wings.
Tongxiang Fan who lead the study, says “We realised that the solution to this problem may have been in existence for millions of years, fluttering right in front of our eyes, and that was correct. Black butterfly wings turned out to be a natural solar collector worth studying and mimicking.”
By employing sunlight to increase activity of catalysts, separating H2O into hydrogen and oxygen, power can be generated and the more powerful the solar collector, the more efficient the technology.
Nanostructures on butterfly wings make them extremely black and help researchers collect sunlight to make hydrogen gas from water; Credit: American Chemical Society via Earthtimes.org
The idea is based on the miniature scales found on the butterflies wings, whereby they collect sunlight to stay active in colder weather. The black colour was found to absorb the highest levels of sunlight. The elongated scales overlap one another, with ridges along the length with tiny holes on either side, opening to the under-layer. By having higher walls, sunlight can be channeled into the holes and soak up longer wavelengths of light.
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