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Published on July 27th, 2009 | by Jeff Kart

5

Moth's Eyes May Hold Key to Solar Efficiency



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Biomimicry is about emulating nature. Scientists at the Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina are using the concept to increase the efficiency of solar cells, peering into how a moth’s eye absorbs light.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy lab are working with the University of Florida’s Peng Jiang to study how special coatings that mimic structures found in nature can make solar cells more productive for commercial applications, homes and even space satellites.

“With most types of solar cells, you lose about one-third of the energy because the sunlight is simply reflected away,” according to Marie Kane at the Savannah lab.

But engineered coatings that mimic the way a moth’s eye absorbs light can reduce unwanted reflection from silicon solar cells from 30 percent to less than 2 percent.

A moth’s eye is so good at absorbing light because it consists of tiny, hexagonal bumps that are smaller than the wavelength of visible light.

Funding for the project comes from the federal stimulus package.

(Image credit: kaibara87 via Flickr.

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About the Author

is typing about issues in the Great Lakes, from advanced biofuels to zero-emission vehicles. Jeff is an environmental journalist and social media evangelist based in Michigan, where the summers are short, the winters are cold, and the stories are plentiful.



  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob

    Now this sounds promising.

    I worry that if this actually raised the efficiency of PV by 28 percent, what is the additional cost to protect the very fragile coating?

    But I love this kind of research!

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob

    Now this sounds promising.

    I worry that if this actually raised the efficiency of PV by 28 percent, what is the additional cost to protect the very fragile coating?

    But I love this kind of research!

  • http://storyofstuff.com Hann

    I recommend everyone go buy the book. Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by Nature. I think the author’s first name was Janine.

    Peace.

    XVX for life, R.A.S.H. ’til death.

  • http://storyofstuff.com Hann

    I recommend everyone go buy the book. Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by Nature. I think the author’s first name was Janine.

    Peace.

    XVX for life, R.A.S.H. ’til death.

  • http://storyofstuff.com Hann

    I recommend everyone go buy the book. Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by Nature. I think the author’s first name was Janine.

    Peace.

    XVX for life, R.A.S.H. ’til death.

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