Solar research takes cue from butterflies

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By biomimicking the Cabbage White butterfly, solar energy of the future may become cheaper and more efficient, this according to a report published by a research team from the University of Exeter in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, and reported by solardaily.com.

The report notes that the amount of power produced by photovoltaic (PV) cells can be increased by nearly 50 percent when mimicking the v-shaped posture adopted by the butterflies to heat up their muscles prior to flight. The wing-like structure of the PV cells also increases their power-to-weight ratio by 17 fold, increasing their efficiency tremendously.

Cabbage White butterflies have long been observed to take flight before other species on cloudy days, an ability thought to be due to reflectance basking, or the angular v-shaped posture used by the insects to warm their thoraxes. The research team found that the optimal angle for efficient warming was achieved at 17 degrees, which increased the temperature by about 45 degrees Fahrenheit compared to when held flat.

"This proves that the lowly Cabbage White is not just a pest of your cabbages, but actually an insect that is an expert at harvesting solar energy," said Professor Richard ffrench-Constant, a butterfly mimicry researcher at the University of Exeter

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