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Butterfly wings and biomimicry

Updated: Apr 11



Revisiting the topic of biomimicry from my last post, I thought it apt to mention Butterflies wings. Butterflies from the Lepidoptera order are distinctively recognized by their bold, garish array of colour displayed on their wings. This is used as a method of communication enabling sparring, courting, mating and hiding, as well as mimicry to ward off predators. Most species wings have a layer of overlapping scales producing magnificent iridescent colouring. In the 1980’s it was theorised the patterns and colour variations among species were the result of colour interpretation, where by something was directing synthesis of appropriate pigments. This was in the days before electron microscopes (EM) ... In later years using an EM, scientists were able to view miniscule cone like structures standing up 1 micron from the scale surface, which caused iridescence or structural colour when viewed from different angles.



Understanding these chromatic and complex colour mechanisms have inspired new technology (biomimicry). In 2017, scientists theorized they could use these forms of light manipulation in solar panel technology to control and exploit different light wavelengths and create a more efficient solar panel.



In 2021 Exeter Uni commenced a three year project looking in to the use of these butterfly wing inspired technologies to create invisible solar panels, which could theoretically be installed in the windows of buildings in future cityscapes, allowing the less energy producing wavelengths to pass through, whilst refracting and storing the energy from the useful wavelengths.



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