09 March, 2016

Moth eyes + science = solar power

When it comes to insects, even so-called pests can play a beneficial role in our environment. Here's an extraordinary example: How the lowly leaf miner moth contributes to alternative energy production.

Friend or foe?
Acrocercops brongniardella, or the leaf miner moth (found throughout Europe and North America), is tiny compared to most common moths. Its wingspan is 8–10 mm, about the size of a small garden pea. While many consider this little insect a pest because of its taste for plant leaves, the structure of its eyes have inspired a new discovery that could boost the efficiency of solar panels. 

Scientists who have studied and mimicked the leaf miner moth's eyes have created  a super tiny texture on silicon (the most common material for solar panels). The  new texture cuts down the amount of light (and potential energy) lost from a traditional solar panel.

The leaf miner moth eye has thousands of tiny posts,
each one ~200 nanometers broad x 70 nanometers high. 

Here's how it works. Moths can see better at night, and their eyes don't glimmer and attract predators. This is because a moth’s compound eyes have textured patterns made up of tiny posts, each one smaller than the wavelength of light. When light hits the moth’s eye, most of it is absorbed and passes into the moth's cornea without disruption. 

More efficient solar panels are based
on moth eye structures.

Scientists are creating "nanotextured" squares of silicon based on these moth's eye structures. When placed on top of an ordinary silicon wafer, the thin film is completely antireflective and once incorporated into the manufacturing process, could soon boost the production of solar energy from silicon solar cells.

Moth Eyes Inspire Scientists...

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