Along with butterflies and moths, whose eyes have inspired scientists to build more efficient solar cells, a particular type of fly (the blowfly) has been discovered to have the right properties that would make us harvest the sun more efficiently.
“These eyes are perfect for making solar cells because they would collect more sunlight from a larger area rather than just light that falls directly on a flat surface,” said Akhlesh Lakhtakia the project leader from Penn State University.
The problem comes with replicating the eyes’ shape for mass production. A millennium-old idea came to the scientists, though. They extracted nine fly corneas, filled them with polydimethylsiloxane (a polymer) to protect their shape, mounted them on a glass substrate and then coated them with nickel in a vacuum. The resulted mould resembled the fly’s eyes perfectly.
To go further, they not plan to extract 30 corneas and to replicate them in higher quantities. The scientists also plan to study other biological surfaces for their properties and the impact they would have if applied to solar cells. They even hope to create colour without the use of any pigment.
It’s been in our nature to mimic everything, from fish to birds, and now we continue with amazing properties other animals have developed over millions of years – just like the planet’s teaching us how to invent and how to care.