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Bugs are inspiring improvements to solar cells to be ant-reflective and water-repellent.
When moths encounter light, these orderly arrays of protrusions interfere with its transmission and reflection, rendering the light all but invisible. Biologists believe this trait evolved in moths, which are often nocturnal, because it prevents their eyes from reflecting moon or starlight, which would make them easier targets for predators.
Cicada wings are amazingly effective at rapidly shedding water and dirt, apparently because the insects often need to fly in humid environments, Jiang said. At the particle level, the wings have a structure very similar to that of the moth eyes â€” except that rather than deflecting light, tiny pockets of air around each nipple-like protrusion buoy water droplets.â€
Replicating the characteristics of these two insects would add beneficial properties to solar cells. The anti-reflective coating would allow more light to enter the cell â€” current coatings reflect about 10%. Jiangâ€™s technique would only reflect 2%. The water-repelling element would be useful for keeping the cells clean and free of dirt and dust.