Moth-Inspired Technology May Improve Solar Panels
Fabricated rolls of moth-eye film.
CREDIT: Nagaoka University of Technology.
A new coating modeled after the anti-reflective surface of a moth’s eyes could lead to more efficient solar panels, scientists say.
The moth-inspired coating consists of tiny bumps arranged in such a way that they reflect almost no light.
To test out their anti-reflective abilities, researchers at the Nagaoka University of Technology in Japan used the coatings on solar panels located in Phoenix and Tokyo. What they found: The insect-like film could improve solar panel efficiency by 5 percent to 6 percent annually.
"People may think this improvement is very small, but the efficiency of photovoltaics is just like fuel consumption rates of road vehicles," said lead study researcher Noboru Yamada. "Every little bit helps."
And, just as a car will stop running sooner if some of the fuel you pump in leaks out, solar panels can’t produce their maximum amount of electricity if some of the sunlight bounces off their surface. That’s why these panels are typically coated with anti-reflective films.
When Yamada and his team set out to find a good film for the job, they looked to the moth.
Moths’ eyes, it turns out, are among the least reflective surfaces found in nature. The special, nanostructured coating on their eyes lets these insects gather as much light as possible to see in dimly lit areas and avoid predators.
Using this extraordinary structure to develop anti-reflective and anti-glare coatings has been done before. This is the first time, however, that these films have been applied to solar panels. It also seems to be the first time that anyone has been able to make the insect-inspired coatings in large quantities.
While the researchers will continue to improve its properties, they say the film is ready for mass production.
Yamada and his colleagues detailed their findings in the Jan. 20 issue of Optics Express.
- Moths' Eyes Serve as Blueprint for Reflection-Free Displays
- Holy Bat Trick! Biosonar Could Give Robots Night Vision
- 10 Profound Innovations Ahead