If you look at a cicada wing under a microscope, you'll see that it's covered in an array of nanoscale spikes. Earlier this year, scientists copied that structure to produce a highly effective antibacterial surface. Now, researchers from China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University have replicated those spikes' antireflective properties, and the resulting technology could be used to create more efficient solar cells.
For their study, the scientists produced an array of cicada-wing-inspired "nano nipples" on a titanium dioxide semiconductor substrate. Incoming visible light was able to pass between those microscopic structures, reaching the underlying material. The nipples also have a light-scattering effect, however, which kept much of that light from being reflected back out.
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As an added bonus, the light doesn't have to be hitting the surface at one specific angle in order for the antireflective effect to work. Additionally, the surface retains these qualities even after being heated to 500 ºC (932 ºF).
The research team is continuing to develop the technology, and is currently looking into using semiconductor materials with a higher refractive index, such as tantalum pentoxide.
A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.
Source: American Institute of Physics