Scientists have developed yet another nature-inspired technology, which holds the potential to boost the efficiency of solar cells. The creature, which they mimicked is the moth, or its eyes, to be more precise.
Yet again, a successful use of biomimicry finds its way in a prestigious scientific journal, showing how nature can inspire great minds to developing super efficient solar cells. The example comes from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore, where a team of ambitious researchers applied the principle behind moth’s eyes in solar cells.
Just about a week ago, a study by a German team of scientists reported an incredible boost in solar cells efficiency thanks to a technology that mimics a part of the human eye. The work that just appeared in the journal ASC Nano by the team in Singapore also mimics eyes, however this time they belong to moths.
In more detail, moth’s eyes have a unique and very complex lens structure with a pattern, which gives an anti-reflective effect. It allows light to be captured and kept. This exact principle is what Hemant Raut, a graduate student, and his colleges tried to replicate by applying a process called nanoimprint lithography. Essentially, this means that tiny patterns are stamped onto materials.
The team used tiny nickel molds, which imprint the desired pattern onto polycarbonates. After that, a second set of molds, this time slightly bigger, was used to imprint a second pattern on top of the old one. In this way, the guys were able to replicate the patterns of the lenses in moth’s eyes. The material was then tested with light, managing to reflect only 4.8%, showing a huge potential in the field of solar cells.
At this stage, the experiment is only lab based, but they team is already working on upscaling it. They are applying a rather unconventional method to make large sheets of the material using a roller printer.
Interestingly, a few years ago, another team from University of California, Riverside, reported success in similar technology, where they mimic moth’s eyes in order to develop coatings and boost solar cell efficiency. The question that emerges immediately of course is why that one did not get upscaled to a commercial size.
Let’s hope the team from Singapore has managed to overcome whatever problem the others were having, and their technology reaches the industry and not only editors of scientific papers.
Image (c) ACS Nano