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Moth Eyes Inspire Different Solar Cell

Moth eyes absorb almost all incident light, thus reducing reflection that predators would notice. Researchers have now used the moth eye structure as the basis of a highly efficient solar absorbing cell. Larry Greenemeier reports

 
You wouldn’t think that things as mundane as rust or the eyes of a garden-variety moth would have much in common with advances in sustainable energy. But Swiss researchers report that a way to create highly efficient solar panels may involve photocells incorporating light-absorbing qualities of iron oxide within a structure similar to moth eyes.
 
The scientists covered tiny particles of tungsten oxide with iron oxide to mimic the way moth eyes gather light. Moth light absorption is highly efficient, for survival reasons—because the eyes barely reflect any light, they don’t attract the attention of predators.  
 
And where most solar panels convert light to electricity, these devices use solar rays to split water molecules and produce pure hydrogen fuel. Which deals with the storage problem associated with solar power. The research will appear in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. [Florent Boudoire et al, Photonic light trapping in self-organized all-oxide microspheroids impacts photoelectrochemical water splitting]
 
Stanford University researchers are likewise exploring ways to bypass electricity generation when splitting water molecules. Their work combines into a single unit the photoelectric cells that gather sunlight and the electrolyzer that produces hydrogen. They published their research last fall in the journal Science. [Michael J. Kenney et al, High-Performance Silicon Photoanodes Passivated with Ultrathin Nickel Films for Water Oxidation]
 
Both projects are part of an effort to get solar to better compete with cheap fossil fuels. And bring heliocentrism to the power supply.
 
—Larry Greenemeier
 
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
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