UK researchers develop efficient solar panels that mimick butterfly posture

3 August 2015 (Last Updated August 3rd, 2015 18:30)

Researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK have proposed an energy-efficient, cheap solar cell drawing inspired by the v-shaped pose of cabbage white butterflies.

butterfly

Researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK have proposed an energy-efficient, cheap solar cell drawing inspired by the v-shaped pose of cabbage white butterflies.

A new solar panel designed by the researchers emulates the pose of the insects, which could lead to lower cost solar power generation.

The team, comprising members from the university’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI), and the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, published its findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

They found that the v-shaped position enables the creatures to harness the energy from solar rays in a short time, before taking flight. Warming-up their wing muscles allows them to take to the air more quickly than other types of butterfly.

This unique pose maximises solar energy concentration onto the insect’s thorax, which is what enables the insect to fly off so rapidly.

"This truly multidisciplinary research shows pathways to develop low-cost solar power that have not been done before."

Cabbage white butterflies were found to hold their wings at an angle of 17º to their body, which facilitates an increase of 7.3ºC in its body temperature over having the wings held flat.

Researchers have mirrored the wing-like structure of the butterfly while developing new photovoltaic cells inside solar panels, resulting in raising their power generation by up to 50%.

Research lead author Tapas Mallick said: "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."

The newly invented technology is also claimed to have heightened the power-to-weight ratio of the panel’s overall solar energy structure by almost 17 times, which increases its efficiency.


Image: Cabbage White butterflies hold their wings at 17º angle to their body. Photo: courtesy of Shutterstock/University of Exeter.