Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have invented tiny structures inspired by butterfly wings that open the door to new solar cell technologies.

The inspiration came from the blue Morpho Didius butterfly, which has wings with small cone-shaped nanostructures.

The researchers believe that tapping this phenomenon could make way for other innovations in next-generation solar cell, stealth technologies and architectural applications.

Based on the butterfly phenomenon, the ANU researchers were successful in fine tuning the light directions in experiments using similar structures like the butterfly wings at the nanoscale.

ANU Research School of Engineering lead researcher Dr Niraj Lal said that scientists through effective light management can greatly improve the efficiency of solar cells.

Dr Lal added: "Techniques to finely control the scattering, reflection and absorption of different colours of light are being used in the next generation of very high-efficiency solar panels.

"Being able to make light go exactly where you want it to go has proven to be tricky up until now."

The aim of the team’s experiments was to absorb all of the sunlight’s blue, green and ultraviolet colours in the perovskite layer of a solar cell while absorbing all of the red, orange and yellow light in the silicon layer. Through, such a cell, the team had surpassed silicon efficiency records recently.

According to Dr Lal, the technique could be used in the future for making opaque objects transparent to certain colours, and vice versa.

Image: Co-researcher Kevin Le from ANU with a blue Morpho butterfly and a solar cell. Photo: courtesy of Stuart Hay, ANU.