Asian Black Butterfly Wings Inspire 3D-Printed Solar Cell Research

Published by , October 20, 2017 12:37 pm

(  Researchers from Caltech and Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology took inspiration from the structure of a butterfly’s wings to design innovative solar panels that can more efficiently absorb light. The black butterfly, officially known as Pachliopta aristolochiae, a member of the Lepidoptera family of insects is a native of South and Southeast Asia, and it has a unique wing structure that could lead to the development of more efficient small photovoltaic cells. Its wings are covered by tiny scales, which can harvest sunlight over a wide range of different angles and wavelengths.
Inspired by the butterfly’s physiology and by 3D printing techniques, Siddique and his team decided to create a virtual 3D model of the insect’s wings, based on microscopic images of them. They then calculated the light absorption capacity that these wings would have, in order to better understand their optical properties. After this, the next logical step was to make some solar cells out of silicone that mimicked the wing’s scaly nanohole structure. Tests were then carried out on these panels, showing a light absorption increase of 200 per cent compared to previous structures.

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