Mimicking Butterfly Wings Can Improve Efficiency of Solar Energy Systems

Via Yale’s e360 Digest.

Solar-concentrating photovoltaic systems can produce nearly 50 percent more power by mimicking the V-shaped wing formation certain butterflies exhibit before take-off, say researchers at the University of Exeter. The cabbage white butterfly warms its muscles before flight by placing its wings in the shape of a “V” to maximize the concentration of solar energy onto its thorax. This behavior, known as reflectance basking, increases the butterfly’s thorax temperature by roughly 13 degrees F compared to flat wings, the researchers found. When reflective panels are arranged around a concentrating photovoltaic system in the same way, this wing-like configuration increases the power-to-weight ratio of the solar energy system by 17-fold, making it vastly more efficient, the researchers explain in the journal Scientific Reports. The team showed that replicating the single layer of highly reflective scale cells found in the butterfly wings could also improve power-to-weight ratios of solar concentrators.

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