And God Created: Solar Collectors On Butterfly Wings

David Everson


With the “green revolution” going on in the world around us, the need to develop better ways to collect energy from the sun is in high gear. However, few would have expected scientists to be looking to butterflies to improve our ability to trap the sun’s energy for our power needs. Well, that is, indeed, the case! The study of butterflies is leading the way to improve the efficiency of our solar collectors.

Let us look at these marvels of creation and at the marvelous abilities God has given them. They are teaching us to be more “green” in the power needs of our modern world.

“Butterflies are beautiful, fragile, natural, and apparently solar powered.  Research suggests that certain scales on butterfly wings are nanobiologically-tuned to absorb heat from sunlight, enabling the insect to survive in colder or higher-altitudes than normal,” says Luke McKinney in The Daily Galaxy blog.

Of course, we have been amazed by the beauty, frailty, metamorphic and migration abilities, sense of smell – and so much more of God’s design – in butterflies. But, now, their wings are coming under intense study to power solar cells and make more reflective materials in light collection. Research, revealed in articles with titles such as “Biomimetization of Butterfly Wings by the Conformal-Evaporated-Fil-by-Roatation Techniques for Photonics” and “Novel Photoanode Structure Templated from Butterfly Wing Scales,” has shown we have much to learn about God’s designs in being “green.”

Butterflies survive in many different climates, from tropical to arctic. However, it is the Paris Peacock butterfly of the Himalayan Mountains in India that lives up to 5,000 feet in elevation and the Swallowtail butterfly found in South China that are being studied for their abilities to absorb solar energy to gain the needed heat to live in cold climates. These, and probably many other butterflies, have specially designed spots on their wings that have microscopic scales that are better at collecting the sun’s energy than anything humans have created. By opening their wings and exposing the solar collecting spots to the sun, they can quickly warm themselves after a cool night and begin their daily activities.

Currently, scientists have a problem with these types of studies, as was stated on The Daily Galaxy website: “We lack the nanotech to rebuild the unique cross-ribbed quasi-honeycomb structure …” – referring to the structure that holds these special scales, the butterflies’ wings. So, in testing these scales on the butterfly, the Chinese and Japanese scientists had to use actual butterfly wings, dissolve them, and transfer the light-harvesting scales onto a structure called a “Gratzel cell.” There they could measure how much energy these scales could absorb. It showed that they were up to 10% efficient, which is much higher than anything humans have designed for the same purpose.

Research will continue into the butterfly’s wing to see if humans can use the “green technology” that God designed to meet our energy needs of the future. As Paul said to the Romans, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (1:20). –Rt 1 Box 116A, Belington, WV 26256.

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