A research team at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra has developed tiny nanostructures that are capable of finely controlling the direction of light. The energy-efficient invention is capable of being used for a broad range of applications.
Inspired by the wings of the Morpho Didius butterfly – a butterfly with cone-shaped structures that scatter light to create a blue iridescence – these nanostructures are expected to drive new efficiencies in solar cells, smart windows, and even stealth technology.
Speaking on ANU’s biomimicry breakthrough, lead researcher Dr Niraj Lal said techniques to finely control the scattering, reflection and absorption of different colours of light are being used in the next generation of high-efficiency solar panels.
The ANU researchers recently used tandem cells with a perovskite layer and a silicon layer. The perovskite layer absorbs the blue, green and ultraviolet spectrum of sunlight, while the silicon layer absorbs the red, orange and yellow light.
Lal said their tiny cone-shaped structures were able to direct different colours of light where they wanted them to go, which had previously posed quite a challenge.
ANU’s biomimicry technology is also expected to create ‘smarter’ solar windows by controlling light and heat transmission. It is also capable of being used in aesthetic applications, by selecting from within the visible spectrum.
As an example, this technology could create a window that was transparent to some colours, opaque for others, and even matte-textured. This could further be applied to cooling applications within architecture, for instance.