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Green Power From A Pest

Bioreplication – Mother Nature’s Way Of Helping Us Help Her

flyeyeAkhlesh Lakhtakia, Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State University, working with Professor Carlo G. Pantano, graduate student Drew Patrick Pulsifer, and Professor Raúl José Martín-Palma of the Universidad Autónomia de Madrid, Spain, found that corneas of the blowfly was ideal for increasing power production for the next generation of solar cells. Blowflies have compound eyes that are roughly hemispherical, within each half sphere the surface is covered by macroscale hexagonal eyes with nanoscale features that allows the flies a 270° field of view. Mimicking this would allow solar cells to collect vast amounts of sunlight from a lot of different angles. This amounts to an extremely larger area and maximized efficiency while occupying the same footprint as a flat surfaced solar cell.

The field of Biomimicry is taking the best from nature’s efficient problem solutions and recreating them in the lab. One important way of doing this is bioreplication, where an actual biological structure is used as a mould that mimics the properties of biological tissues. The problem is bioreplication is less than 10 years old and no one has figured out a way to automate the process. The difficulty comes in trying to mass-produce the nanoscale properties of the material that makes it so efficient. Growing a vast number of flies and harvesting their eyes is impractical (and more than a little bit creepy), so a mould was needed that could reproduce the lenses in sufficient detail on an industrial scale.

And that’s exactly what Lakhtakia (pronounced Frank’-en’-stein — no, not really!), and his team did. They developed a method to create macroscale moulds or dies large enough to manipulate but also retain nanoscale features. In order to retain the overall design in sufficient detail the researchers fixed the corneas of nine flies on a glass substrate and filled the back of the corneas with polydimethylsiloxane, a silicone-based organic polymer, so that the metal covering they apply would not seep behind the eyes. They then deposited 250 nanometers (thinner than your hair), of nickel on the back surface using electroform (a method of electroplating), and thermally evaporate the material that forms the coating in a vacuum chamber. The object receiving the coating is fixed to a holder and rotated about once every two seconds. This creates a master template half a millimeter thick (although the master can be thicker), and a casting that faithfully reproduced features of a few micrometers and larger in dimension. The master template can be used either as a die to stamp the pattern or as a mold. The intention is to use the master die/mold to produce not only daughter dies/molds, but to tile the templates so that they can imprint large areas. “One of the nice things about a conformal coating like this is, it becomes nanograined,” said Lakhtakia. “The surface of the die becomes very smooth so the polymer will probably not stick.”

insectwithcompoundeyeThe next step is to increase the size of that mould, up to 30 corneas, so that more can be produced at once, and to examine other biological surfaces for properties that could be mimicked by nanoscale moulds. The team is currently looking at butterfly wings to understand how the surfaces create colors without pigment. Things can have colors in other ways than slopping paint on them. The method could also be used to solve crimes. Normally fingerprints on things like certain materials are difficult to read, but Lakhtakia’s patterning technique could reveal those hard-to-read surfaces.

This would also open the door to a non-toxic avenue for pest control. “Interestingly, the emerald ash borer, an insect that has recently become a problem in Pennsylvania, mates by color,” said Lakhtakia. “Would lures made from templates of the ash borer skin attract males?”

Many biological surfaces exist which this process could open the door to creating manufacture surfaces for a variety of applications.

Together we stand – divided we fall. Working with Mother Nature instead of against her, we find that green solutions are all around us and if we seek, we will find the answers.

as the green future unfolds.

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15 Responses to “Green Power From A Pest”

  1. Siberian tiger Says:

    Why is it that all of the green web sites conveniently leave out a key fact about existing renewable energy? Namely, of the nearly 10 % of existing renewable energy, most of it is produced by hydropower and that the 50 % increase in wind power made a slight dent in the overall renewables because it is still a small part of the total electric generation from renewables and will be for some time. And, why is there little recognition that hydropower is the most efficient renewable with….
    .-= Siberian tiger´s last blog ..Siberian tiger drawing =-.

  2. Linda Says:

    Hi Siberian … Well, why is it that you didn’t check out past post on this green web site before accusing ‘all’ green sites of ‘conveniently’ leaving out key facts on ANY renewable energy? Listed eight of the most recent past articles posted on this site on hydropower or derivatives thereof, for your reading enjoyment. Please feel to peruse Forced Green’s archives on Wind or any sustainable power. If you find a sustainable energy source that I have actually missed, please feel free to let me know and I surely will research and post on it.

    The Green Power of Waves
    Big Green Power and Water
    Hydrokinetic Power
    Florida’s Green Ocean Energy
    SeaGenThe Color Of Wave Power Is Marine Green
    Our Green Future Is Now
    A Green Energy Red Sea Serpent

    Thank you for coming by and do drop in again.

  3. Google Ranking Says:

    In the first sight I thought that this is a windows wallpaper. Later understood that this is the eye of a pest taken using microscope. So beautiful.

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Google Ranking …. It is beautiful and it is going to do so much more.

    Hi Papa Sez … Thanks for the tip! I am on my way over. 😀

  5. Papa Sez Says:

    Wow this is a wonderful illustration of looking on the positive side of what are considered “pests”. You and your readers might also want to check out my article on entomophagy and the top reasons for including insects in our diet. http://hubpages.com/hub/Top-5-Reasons-Why-Eating-Insects-is-Better-for-Us

    Sustainability is written all over this global movement that might help address world hunger and poverty alleviation.

    Please check it out.
    .-= Papa Sez´s last blog ..To An Inspiring Man- You Will Be Missed =-.

  6. Lissof Says:

    “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

    Nah,,, Beauty is in the eye of the Blow Fly!!!

    We sometimes forget that Mother Earth provides for our needs, we just have to take time to know her gifts and how to use them for our benefit.

    Siberian brings up a very good point, Hydro is our “Current” major source of renewable energy. Prior to a hundred years ago; wind in the form of wind mills and sailing ships and wood for heating, hot water and cooking was the major renewable sources of energy for the world.

    Prior to the “Rural Electric Administration” (REA) http://newdeal.feri.org/tva/tva10.htm in 1935; wind (wind mills), solar (clothes line) and wood (bio energy for heating, hot water and cooking) were the major sources of renewable energy for the rural population of the United States of America.

    I live in Washington State, Hydro-electric from dams is a major source of our total energy profile (~66%)… But by law is not considered a “renewable” source of energy. There are numerous Wind Turbine and solar projects being installed to complete our “renewable” energy mandate of 15% by 2020. Hydro in the form of “Tidal” and “Wave” energy are being researched as well as “Geo-thermal” sources of energy.

    Now the residents of Kansas would be hard pressed to source “Hydro” be it dams, tidal or wave motion as a major component of their renewable energy package. They do have wind and solar resources that will carry their needs http://www.awea.org/projects/ . The point being that as we enter a new age, new sources of energy will be utilized, hydro will not always be the major source of renewable energy. There are some new Solar-Thermal products about to be released that have potential to radically change how we produce energy. As I learned today even the Blowfly may enhance our current Solar Photovoltaic potential.

    Siberian has a very interesting site to explore and for the adventurous,,,, Papa Sez has a little survey at the end of his blog that provokes thought.

  7. Linda Says:

    Hi Lissof … Good points on all sides. As the knowledge expands on the sustainable values that are at our fingertips, the faster we can get the movement moving!

  8. Barbara Says:

    This was a most fascinating post! The applications, of how it can be used, seem endless. Thanks for sharing this!
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Relief Well Delayed! =-.

  9. Linda Says:

    Hi Barbara … It is kinda neat for all of its uses for the future. You are welcome!

  10. celine Says:

    this would be a great discovery… bu, I just wanna know if other fly could also contribute the same thing or blowfly only does this ??
    .-= celine´s last blog ..The Dangers The Public Health Care Option =-.

  11. Linda Says:

    Hi Celine … Their testing included a large variety of fly species. They found the blowfly had the perfect (or near perfect) geometric pattern for catching the largest amount of available sunlight, especially at the microscopic level. To date, there has been no way to manufacture templates/moulds to that level until Lakhtakia’s team developed their process. And since blowfly corneas are the best, no need to mess with the rest.

  12. Articles » Blog Archive » How to Get Rid of Ants Using a Least Toxic Approach: Part One Says:

    […] Pest control. Green Power From A Pest |Differences In Pest Control Techniques : : Floor, Home Flooring …Hearts Consulting Group, LLC […]

  13. limaj@harley handlebars Says:

    Another excellent idea we should be using, NOW instead of somewhere off in the future. The green future is NOW!
    .-= limaj@harley handlebars´s last blog .. =-.

  14. Linda Says:

    Hi limaj …. Yes, the green future is now. Our hope is that it catches on here in the states as well as the world!

    Hi celine …. Imagine your own community having the power like the one shown does. It would be awesome!

  15. david Says:

    Great website love the graphics and also your content on your site good job.

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