Solar Panels Get A Butterfly-Inspired Design Which Might Make Them Cheaper And More Efficient

As 2015 continues, more progressive news on solar energy is released to the public, which, in turn, pushes utilities to more renewable sources of power. What started out as a supplemental means to grid power has now become even more. As of now, the biggest news pertaining to solar energy are large solar farms and solar cities. For the former, Japan is turning abandoned golf courses into solar farms as a means to get away from nuclear. For the latter, New York City plans to turn its borough of Brooklyn into a solar city.

However, the push for solar energy isn’t just implementing its technology anywhere and everywhere to get cities and nations off grid power. It is also about improving the technology itself. Solar energy is about to become both cheaper and more efficient thanks to a new butterfly-inspired design.

The new solar panel design mimics the v-shaped posture adopted by butterflies to heat up its flight muscles before taking off, as reported by NDTV Gadgets. With it, the amount of power produced can increase by almost 50 percent. Needless to say, increased efficiency of solar energy production could also lower its cost.

Tapas Mallick, the study’s lead author and professor at the University of Exeter in Britian, provided the following statement pertaining to the new butterfly-inspired design.

“Biomimicry in engineering is not new. However, this truly multidisciplinary research shows pathways to develop low cost solar power that have not been done before.”

In order to know how this new design works, one must detail how Cabbage White butterflies, the butterflies used as a model and source for the new design, take off, as reported by Times of India. Their v-shaped posturing maximizes the concentration of solar energy onto their thorax, which allows flight. Also, the specific sub-structures of their wings allow the light from the sun to reflect efficiently, ensuring the flight muscles are warmed to an optimal temperature as soon as possible. In short, the design was made for Cabbage White butterflies to escape danger as fast as they can.

As a result, scientists working on this design implemented the Cabbage White butterflies’ posturing to optimize their solar energy harvesting. As a matter of fact, if they improve on the design, they may vastly improve the power-to-weight ratios of future solar concentrators. Summarized, they will be lighter, more efficient, and cheaper.

[Image via Susana Gonzalez/Stringer/Getty]