A recent study done at Stanford University has scientists using insect eyes as their newest inspiration for solar panel designs. They are using a photovoltaic material made from perovskite to convert sunlight into energy. Although this material is reliable and extremely low cost, it is much more mechanically fragile than the commercial solar cells made of silicon. So to protect this material, they are utilizing the natural design of the eye of a fly.
The protective design of a fly’s eye
Fly’s eyes are made up of hundreds of tiny segmented eyes. They all work the same in their honeycomb setup, so if one stops working, the rest continue to work. Scientists found this natural phenomenon useful as a protective barrier for their fragile perovskite solar power material. This repetitive honeycomb model can break up the material into hundreds of separate segments so when one breaks, others continue to work.
Testing the model
They encapsulated the perovskite in this honeycomb-like design. The researchers wanted to see if this new material will be able to withstand the elements with this new skin, so they tested it to the extreme. They exposed the encapsulated perovskite to 185 degrees Fahrenheit and 85% humidity for 6 weeks. The result? Even in the extreme conditions, the cells continued to generate electricity with extreme efficiency.
The future of the model
Scientists hope to redesign the model so even more light gets into the perovskite core. They hope that by deflecting light from the scaffold cells into the perovskite underneath that the material will produce electricity with even more efficiency. This could put solar into an even cheaper, more reliable role in the near future.
Photo by Jared Belson