Mind & Matter


Renewable Energy from Fly Eyes

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Close up of blowfly eye. Photo by Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Penn State University.


Penn State University researchers have recently offered a surprising use for nanoscale scanning and replication: Appropriate the structure of fly eyes to harness solar power. Professor Akhlesh Lakhtakia and colleagues have developed a method for scanning the nanoscale features of a blowfly’s oculus, and they eventually plan to use the scan to mass-produce polymer replicas from an electroformed nickel master template. According to Lakhtakia, “These eyes are perfect for making solar cells because they would collect more sunlight from a larger area rather than just light that falls directly on a flat surface.” The researchers plan to grow the master template to include as many as 30 fly corneas for this purpose.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.