The beauty of butterflies, especially their wings, has captivated many a person. One butterfly, the Blue Morpho, has particularly stunning iridescent wings. Besides their beauty, these wings feature a unique characteristic, which could led to a variety of innovative technologies. Funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a team of researchers from the University of Exeter along with General Electric (GE) Global Research Center, University at Albany and Air Force Research Laboratory, has found the Morpho butterfly’s wings to include a physical structure and surface chemistry that provide amazing properties, which could present a diverse set of applications such as photonic security tags, self cleaning surfaces, protective clothing or industrial sensors. As noted in the journal PNAS, the study discovered that vapor molecules adhere differently to the top of the nanostructures on the scales of Morpho wings than to the bottom. A by-product of its wing scale development, this selectiveness to vapor molecules is what allows for the various bio-inspired technological applications described above. Dr. Radislav Potyrailo of GE and the Principal Investigator for this research program reported that this interdisciplinary team “unveil[ed] the existence of surface polarity gradient on the…butterfly scales,” which then allowed for the “multivariable perspective for vapor sensing, where selectivity is achieved with a single chemically graded nanostructured sensing unit, rather than from an array of separate sensors.”
In speaking about the iridescent properties of butterflies and moths and their relation to natural photonics, Professor Pete Vukusic of the University of Exeter said, “design ideas from nature [allow us] to work towards the development of applications in a range of different technologies.” I agree with this statement and believe it is important to not only come up with new technologies based on man-made ideas, but also from the natural phenomenons that already occur.
Do you know of any similar adaptions of natural properties? What are some of those naturally inspired technological (or other) innovations?
Photography credit: Ken Slade -http://www.flickr.com/photos/texaseagle/7023938029/in/photostream/
Article reference: http://goo.gl/EyvMUa