The structures of spider webs and leaves could serve as a design model for next-generation light-manipulating networks, according to researchers at Boston College and South China Normal University. In experimental scenarios, networks based on the designs showed superior performance, with the networks delivering a fourfold increase in electro-optical properties. Moreover, the designs offer the advantage of a low cost and simple manufacturing process. A spider web design would offer an efficient way to draw light through an optoelectronic device, while the leaf design would provide an effective electrode for solar cells, light sources, and transparent heaters, among other applications.
"This natural structure has been optimized through the evolutionary process for efficient nutrient delivery with maximal strength and light harvesting," says Boston College professor Krzysztof Kempa. "In our application, these properties translate into highly efficient current transport, desirable mechanical properties, and minimal light shading."
The designs could improve the efficiency of solar cells and the performance of a new generation of flexible, durable touchscreens and displays. "Our idea . . . starts with the premise that natural forms offer ready-made solutions for efficient designs, tested over millions of years through natural selection," says Boston College professor Andrzej Herczynski.
From Boston College
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