Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

thin film solar boost from butterfly wings


Nanoholes Found In Butterfly Wings Could Boost Performance Of Thin-Film Photovoltaic Modules

After studying the wings of butterflies, researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology say that reproducing the pattern of nanoholes found in nature can increase the efficiency of thin film solar panels by up to 200 percent.

Thin-film photovoltaic modules have several advantages over conventional crystalline solar cells. They are lighter, cheaper to manufacture, use far less raw material, and are flexible enough to be embedded in clothing or rolled up and transported to a new location. Thin-film solar panels have several disadvantages as well, not the least of which is that they are far less efficient than their crystalline silicon cousins.

thin film solar boost from butterfly wingsScientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have discovered a way to boost the solar absorption rate of thin-film solar by as much as 200%. The secret? Imitating the tiny nanoholes found in the wings of the Pachliopta aristolochiae butterfly. That particular species was selected for study because its wings are almost completely black.

“The butterfly studied by us is very dark black. This signifies that it perfectly absorbs sunlight for optimum heat management. Even more fascinating than its appearance are the mechanisms that help reaching the high absorption.” Using an electron scanning microscope, the researchers found the wings were perforated by a series of nanoholes that varied between 133 to 343 nanometers. The variance in the size of the holes allowed the wings to absorb light at a variety of different angles.

Reproducing the pattern and size of the holes in a thin-film substrate also allowed for the enhanced absorption of light from varying angles. “The optimization potential when transferring these structures to photovoltaic systems was found to be much higher than expected,” says Dr. Hendrik Hölscher of KIT’s Institute of Microstructure Technology. The results of the research conducted by him and his peers  has just been published in the journal Science Advances.

The scientists found that, compared to a smooth surface, the absorption rate of perpendicular light increased by 97% and rose continuously until it reached 207% at an angle of incidence of 50 degrees. “This is particularly interesting under European conditions. Frequently, we have diffuse light that hardly falls on solar cells at a vertical angle,” Dr. Hölscher says.

Laboratory research is always fun to read about but may or may not ever make the transition from the lab to commercial use. If the research can be applied at an industrial scale, thin film technology could begin to match the efficiency of traditional solar panels at significantly lower prices.

Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.


Support our work today!


Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports


EV Sales Charts, Graphs, & Stats


Our Electric Car Driver Report

30 Electric Car Benefits

Tesla Model 3 Video

Renewable Energy 101 In Depth

solar power facts

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Air Quality

Borrego Solar Systems and sPower worked with the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom this year to manifest the first theme park on the West Coast powered...

Clean Power

The last time I visited Walt Disney World was decades ago. I am more of a candidate for hiking the Appalachian trail than going...


Ecologist Susannah B. Lerman believes most homeowners fall into one of three groups when it comes to lawn care. Group #1 includes “lawn people,”...

Autonomous Vehicles

These are times when you wish you could gather children over a bonfire to tell the story of how slime saved the day!

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.