Light-absorbing graphene inspired by moth’s eye


Scientists used the patterns in the moth’s eye to develop a light-absorbing graphene that can be used to create smart wallpapers.

A team of scientists from the Advanced Technology Institute University of Surrey in England led by Professor Ravi Silva developed thin paper-like panels by transforming light resistant graphene sheets into heliophilic graphene. They used a nanotexturing technique to grow graphene around a textured metallic surface. This technique managed to localize light inside the narrow space existing between two metallic surfaces. The ultra-thin graphene sheets created in this way were found to be more effectively in capturing light.

Graphene was first created in the laboratory in 2004. Its carbon atoms are arranged in a honeycomb-like lattice. It is only one atom thick but 207 times stronger than steel, more conductive than copper, and more flexible than rubber. It can only absorb around 2.3 percent of incidental light it comes in contact with. On the other hand, the new nanometer-thin version of the material could collect as much as 90 percent more waste light and heat to produce more energy.

According to the scientists, the inspiration for their work was the unique design of the moth’s eye. Their eyes have microscopic patterns which are used to filter light towards the center. Because of this, moth’s eye can absorb plenty of light which enables them to see even in the dark. The researchers stated that smart wallpapers made using this newly-developed graphene can be used in the future to power homes.

“Solar cells coated with this material would be able to harvest very dim light. Installed indoors, as part of future ‘smart wallpaper’ or ‘smart windows’, this material could generate electricity from waste light or heat, powering a numerous array of smart applications,” said Silva.

“New types of sensors and energy harvesters connected through the Internet of Things would also benefit from this type of coating,” she added.

The Internet of Things is a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to receive and send data.

“The next step is to incorporate this material in a variety of existing and emerging technologies. We are very excited about the potential to exploit this material in existing optical devices for performance enhancement, whilst looking towards new applications. We are looking for industry partners to exploit this technology and are keen to hear from innovative companies who we can explore the future applications of this technology with us.”

The study was published in Science Advances.



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