AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Blue Morpho Butterfly Wings: More Than Just Pretty Faces

Morpho ButterflyThe 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 -

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  1. celine2

    This article was very interesting, and it was also very interesting to see the other comments made about this article!
    After some research, I’ve found an article ( about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology inventing a robot based on snails! Now, snails are slow and aren’t typically considered inspiring, but this only shows that the most unexpected nature can sometimes benefit our technology! The engineers focused on the characteristics in which snails can move in any direction and on any surface, and created a robot called RoboSnail which in the future may be used for “invasive surgery and oil-well drilling.”

  2. rmelman

    This article is fascinating! I found an article that discusses how nature can be applied to technology ( It shows five examples of innovations that have been inspired by nature, such as wind turbines and solar energy. It’s amazing how scientists and innovators can create such technological advances with the use of nature!

  3. segolene

    Great article! It was interesting to read that this butterfly’s wings can lead to technological innovations. Its fascinating to find that the Morpho butterfly’s wings to include a physical structure and surface chemistry, which gives way to applications such as photonic security tags, self cleaning surfaces, protective clothing or industrial sensors! This article, , may provide an even deeper explanation to why this specific butterfly has such unique adaptation properties. The physical structure of the butterfly is also an important reason to why it has unique adaptation of natural properties. This article goes further into those physical characteristics of the butterfly:

  4. rubinka

    I was definitely interested by your discussion of naturally inspired technologies- and I found this link ( to a site of seven different naturally inspired technologies (biomimicry, velcro, etc.). I feel like this is such a unique way to study nature- by looking at the functions of a thing and finding technological applications for them to be of use to humans. Great post!

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