Ten Materials Inspired By Mother Nature (VIDEO)

The natural world is filled with strange, fascinating structures that are stronger, more flexible and more resilient than anything humans can make.

6. Butterfly wing mimicry in solar cells

Photo: Rachel Kramer/Flickr/CC
Photo: Rachel Kramer/Flickr/CC

Living creatures have been manipulating light to create striking colors for millions of years. Blue Morpho rhetenor butterflies, in particular, are among the most investigated in the animal world for the properties of their iridescent wings.

In a nutshell, complex coloration arises because of diffraction from surface periodicities in the wing structures. These structures exhibit layers of alternately high and low refractive indices, leading to optical interference.

The laboratory of Professor Zhang Di at Shanghai Jiao Tong University has developed chemical replicas of these structures, with recent promising data demonstrating that they can be used as templates for more efficient dye-sensitized solar cells.

Ali Miserez is an assistant professor at the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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