What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Biomimicry: Butterfly Wings Could Inspire Next Gen Solar Power

January 21, 2010, 8:46 PM
Blue_butterfly

To boil down the philosophy behind today’s burgeoning biomimicry field: mother nature knows best. Biomimicry subscribers believe that nature knows (far better than do we technology-obsessed humans) how to get things done efficiently and effectively – things like generating energy, creating and sustaining life, building structures, using wind, sun, water. We homo sapiens are over here toiling away, blasting the tops off mountains to get at coal, which we then transport miles and miles away to turn into energy, while a tulip simply turns it’s leaves to the sun. Biomimicry says we should be learning tricks from nature, taking a leaf out of nature’s book so to speak, rather than wasting time and energy always trying to reinvent the wheel.

Exciting recent development in biomimicry: researchers at the State University of Pennsylvania and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid are looking to apply some nano-technology tricks learned from butterfly wings to our solar power industry. Think of the iridescence you can see on the shells/skeletons/wings/eyes of many insects – green flies, for example – and picture the way their gemlike bodies can play with light, distort it, divert it, make it look different from different angles. That particular trait is the one these scientists believe they’ll be able to use to make our solar industry more effective and versatile.

Essentially, the researchers believe that by replicating the nano-structures found in butterfly wings, they’ll be able to create a new kind of material – “optically active structures” – which will be able to diffuse or absorb light more effectively than solar panels do today.

Bonus: since the new material can be produced at room temperature, it may cut some of solar production’s toxic footprint – sometimes referred to as “solar’s dirty little secret” – from the manufacture process. According to GreenBang tech blog: “The new technique overcomes the problems associated with past nano-scale biomimicry methods, as it is employed at room temperature and does not require the use of toxic substances.”

 “The development of miniature cameras and optical sensors based on these organs would make it possible for them to be installed in small spaces in cars, mobile telephones and displays, apart from having uses in areas such as medicine and security,” said Martín-Palma, a study co-author.

 

Biomimicry: Butterfly Wings...

Newsletter: Share: