Butterfly wings to inspire new solar power technology

Author: Darvin Tocmo  Date Posted:26 May 2017 

ANU researchers believe that studying butterfly wings could lead to development of new solar technology.

ANU researchers believe that studying butterfly wings could lead to the development of new solar technology.


Solar technology takes a cue from nature again. First, it was the sun's ability to provide clean, renewable energy. Now, butterflies shed light upon the mystery of controlling light's direction.

Apparently, there’s more to butterflies than beauty and pollination. In fact, butterfly wings are now used to jumpstart new research in solar cells. Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) already confirmed this possibility. They added that the ability to ‘filter light’ might be the next major feature of upcoming solar projects.

The wonders of Morpho Didius wings

Butterflies, the rare Morpho Didius Peruvian butterflies in particular, inspired ANU researchers. Their wings were special for their miniscule nanostructures that scatter light to produce a conspicuous blue iridescence.

According to ANU’s Dr. Niraj Lal, additional experiments in architecture and stealth revealed that synthetic nanostructures similar to those of Morpho Didius can control light’s direction. Such light-control technique is useful in many applications. In addition to uses in architectural and stealth technologies, it shows potential in next-generation solar cell technologies.

New solar technology through light control

The next generation solar panels will feature superb control in terms of scattering, reflecting and absorbing different colors of light. As a result, these state of the art panels promise high efficiency.

ANU’s experiments aimed to absorb all of the blue, green and ultraviolet colors of sunlight in the “perovskite” layer of a solar cell. On the other hand, all of the red, orange and yellow light will be in the “silicon” layer. This is also known as a tandem solar cell with double-decker layers. Perfecting this technique could open the door to applications in architecture, whereby windows could filter certain colors of light, and stealth, such as by making opaque objects transparent to certain colors and vice-versa.

The way the tiny cone-shaped structures worked to direct different colors of light surprised the research team. Using the approach, we could design a window to be transparent to some colors non-see through and matte textured for others.