Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Feb 10

Solar Energy from Butterfly Wings?

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Solar Butterfly Wings Everyone believing in clean and green energy knows its drawbacks. Those working on improving solar energy want to improve solar cells’ light harvesting efficiency. So that more and more solar light can be converted into energy. Well, the help may come from butterflies’ wings! A butterfly’s wing can help us enhancing the solar power efficiency. Butterfly wings have scales that act as tiny solar collectors. Researchers from China and Japan are working on designing more efficient solar cells while taking inspiration from the butterfly wings. If successful, this discovery may lead to powering homes, businesses and other applications in the future.


The conventional cells used in solar cells are dye-sensitized solar cells. They are also known as Grätzel cells after its inventor Michael Grätzel. Chinese and Japanese scientists were trying to improve the efficiency of solar cells by using new materials to improve light-harvesting. They are conducting experiment in dye-sensitized solar cells, which till now have the highest light-conversion efficiencies among all solar cells. Di Zhang and his colleagues ended up turning to the microscopic solar scales on butterfly wings and, using these as a template, made copies of them. These copies were then transferred to the dye-sensitized solar cells. Laboratory tests showed that the butterfly wing solar collectors absorbed light more efficiently than conventional dye-sensitized cells. The fabrication process is less intricate than other methods, and could be used to manufacture other commercially valuable devices, the researchers say.

Tests of these experiments were published in Chemistry of Materials journal. Conclusions from this research indicate that this method of light harvesting can lead to more economical and efficient solar cells in near future. “We studied a novel photoanode structure inspired by butterfly wing scales with potential application on dye-sensitized solar cell in this paper,” reads the abstract of this study. “Quasi-honeycomb like structure (QHS), shallow concavities structure (SCS), and cross-ribbing structure (CRS) were synthesized onto a fluorine-doped tin-oxide-coated glass substrate using butterfly wings as biotemplates separately.”

“Morphologies of the photoanodes, which were maintained from the original butterfly wings, were characterized by scanning and transmission electron microscopies. The results show that the calcined photoanodes with butterfly wings’ structures, which comprised arranged ridges and ribs consisting of nanoparticles, were fully crystallined. Analysis of absorption spectra measurements under visible light wavelength indicates that the light-harvesting efficiencies of the QHS photoanode were higher than the normal titania photoanode without biotemplates because of the special microstructures, and then the whole solar cell efficiency can be lifted based on this.”

  • ilan

    I think it’s great that solar energy investigations are occurring, but here’s the deal: solar energy is not enough to power a 300 person plane. By how the world is doing right now, we don’t need experiments, we need solutions, and fast. I think that towards aircraft, solar energy is not the way to go. Maybe some other type of fuel, like ethanol maybe?

  • Naeem

    We are certainly in need of some extensive research in field of Solar energy. Clean energy, without fossil fuels, is gaining more and more importance. And i don’t think there is any better solution than Solar energy, but NOT in its present technological state. Solar Cell technology can become the best option for future, only if

    a) It can accomodate large scale energy production and
    b)It can be developed into something more cheaper and Cost efficient

    It is good to see the researches going on exploring new aspects of Solar energy, as it may help us to achieve both of above goals.

  • Jos Conil

    But only years of experiments and painstaking research yield workable solutions.There’s no instant shortcut solutions. The evolution of many things which we take for granted now, including Aeroplanes testify to this fact. So I feel that the research in the frield of solar and all other alternate energy needs the patronage of our society.

    Solar energy may not be the one stop solution for every energy need, especially for a high energy field like the airplane. One promising development in aviation field the floating aircraft concept developed by Mr. Hunt http://www.fuellessflight.com, but it is still a long way to go for this technology to come of age. We’ll have to wait till then.

  • http://excelrite.com Shashi Phadke

    I agree with Jos Conil. Every step we are taking towards improving any technology in alternative fuel field is always going to be a small step and such small steps cumulatively make a major advance everybody applauds. I don’t think it is reasonable to look for solar energy to provide solution for fueling aircrafts; problem in fueling aircrafts is in transportability of the fuel. You cannot carry energy for aircrafts in batteries.

  • natureguide

    Yes. All this new technology research stuff may seem interesting and helpful. But another drawback is that the amount of consumption of the whole world can not compete with the little amount of renewable energy.There should be more ways of conserving energy worldwide. We should start by educating other countries and people so that even the world population will become aware of the consequences. Thus the contribution of the people will also help in conserving more energy. The US may should take an example.

  • Viraco4a

    It’s clear that all types of renewable energy technologies are the long-term key to the surviving of the humanity. And I’m very pleased, that there are scientist looking in the nature for the solutions they seek (the butterfly in this case).

  • Alessandro

    Dear Ilan,
    I understand your concerning about aeroplanes but please consider that if we save use of oil in electricity production and we develop bio-fuel we will be still able to fly….
    It is very important to learn to reduce our need of energy from not renewable sources, and also reduce our energy consumption.


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