Squeamish around moths and cicadas? Well, you'd better be nice to them because their various body parts are helping to improve solar power! Researchers at the University of Florida have been investigating the structures of moth eyes and the wings of cicadas and have put them to good use.
Moths eyes are made up of tiny hexagonal shapes, each made up of thousands of orderly bumps. When light hits these bumps, it affects its transmission and reflection, effectively letting all the light pass through to the other side. What does this mean for solar? Well, think of having an anti-reflective surface covering the solar cells -- this means that almost all the light reaches their surface and can be converted into energy, rather than being reflected back by a glass or plastic cover. Currently, about 10% of light at certain wavelenths is reflected, where in this case, only 2% is sent back.
As for the cicada wings, their structure is much like the moths eyes, but instead of affecting light, they buoy water droplets on their surface so that the water, and dirt, can be easily shed. This keeps the cells clean and in experiments, water droplets moved across the surface of the cell until it reached the edge.
More good news on top of this -- the production method, which involves spinning liquid nanoparticles on a disk, is cheap and reliable! I knew that playing with bugs as a kid would pay off!
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