Scientists have made a major discovery about the oriental hornet -- it's the first known species in the animal kingdom that generates electricity from sunlight.
Scientists knew that the hornet generated electricity in its exoskeleton, but didn't know why. Once they noticed that the hornet was active when the sun was most intense, they decided to see if the two were related. Turns out the hornet's striped tissues are a solar power factory of sorts: pigments in the brown tissues trap light, while the yellow tissues generate electricity.
The brown tissues contain melanin and a structural analysis showed that they featured grooves that capture light and channel the rays into the tissues, sort of like a light trap. The yellow tissues contain xanthopterin, which, in mammals, makes urine yellow. When the scientists isolated the xanthopterin in a liquid solution, put that inside a solar cell electrode and then focused light on it, the pigment produced electricity.
Compared to man-made solar cells, which are usually 10 - 11 percent efficient, the hornet's tissues are only .335 percent efficient, but this discovery could still lead to some interesting biomimicry in the solar energy world, like has been done with butterfly wings and many more of nature's wonders.
written by Matt, January 05, 2011
written by jimmyp, January 12, 2011
written by N T Nair, January 16, 2011
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