Inspired by Multi-Colored Butterfly Wings, Scientist Develops Waterproof Coatings for Solar Panels


Butterflies are colorful, delicate wonders of nature. Their beautiful appearance attracts everyone, but can you imagine they can also inspire us to learn and develop renewable energy resources? Yes, they can! An ambitious professor Shu Yang, from the University of Pennsylvania recently developed a material, which imitates the water-resistant and iridescent properties of the wings of butterfly, with the help of holographic lithography.

Inspired by Multi-Colored Butterfly Wings

Yang’s project garnered fair bit of attention, which helped the professor in obtaining a grant for the development of hydrophobic coatings, inspired by the butterfly qualities for cleaner, drier and more effective solar panels.

How it Works

Most of us are not cognizant about what makes these real wings of butterfly so vivid and lovely and so the conception about recreating the butterfly effect on a static element is highly amazing.

New Scientist demonstrates the working of this project:

“Yang used holographic lithography to recreate the wings’ reflective properties, using a laser to make a 3D cross-linked pattern in a kind of material called photoresist. A solvent then washes away all the photoresist untouched by the laser, creating the 3D structure that affects light to create the color effects. Then a poorer solvent roughens the surface, creating the texture that makes butterfly wings water-resistant.”

Why Butterfly

While a solar panel that is more beautiful is certainly a welcoming idea, you might be curious about why Yang took all the trouble for making solar panels which mimic the attributes of butterfly. Apparently, it’s because of the form influencing functionality of the panels. Solar panels are constantly exposed to different kinds of weather extremes such as heavy rains, high winds, snowfall, hail storms, etc. This causes the buildup of dust, debris and moisture on their surface, leading to a drastic decrease in efficiency. The special coating developed by Yang, could help in preserving the efficiency of solar panels, by keeping them dry and clean, without any extra effort.

Future Work

Yang envisages covering the entire buildings using this iridescent substance in the future. These buildings could then be linked to a chip, which lets the house owners change the transparency and color. Particular energy conservation benefits may not be involved in this, but it would definitely be beautiful.

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