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discovery that butterfly wings have scales that act as tiny solar
collectors has led scientists in China and Japan to design a more
efficient solar cell that could be used for powering homes, businesses,
and other applications in the future. Their study appeared in the
Jan. 13 issue of ACS’ Chemistry of Materials, a bi-weekly journal.
In the study, Di Zhang and colleagues note that scientists are
searching for new materials to improve light-harvesting in so-called
dye-sensitized solar cells, also known as Grätzel cells for inventor
Michael Grätzel. These cells have the highest light-conversion
efficiencies among all solar cells — as high as 10 percent.
The researchers turned to the microscopic solar scales on butterfly
wings in their search for improvements. Using natural butterfly wings
as a mold or template, they made copies of the solar collectors and
transferred those light-harvesting structures to Grätzel cells.
Laboratory tests showed that the butterfly wing solar collector
absorbed light more efficiently than conventional dye-sensitized cells.
The fabrication process is simpler and faster than other methods, and
could be used to manufacture other commercially valuable devices, the
News release courtesy of American Chemical Society (ACS)
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