A butterfly could help make phone and laptop screens less bright after researchers determined that non-reflective screens could be developed by recreating the structure of its wings.
Materials such as glass always reflect part of the incident light, making display screens hard to use in sunlight, but the glasswing butterfly hardly reflects any light in spite of its transparent wings.
Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany have found that irregular nanostructures on the surface of the butterfly wing cause the low reflectivity and hope that a synthetic version of the structure could be used for lenses or mobile phone displays.
Researchers scanned the glasswings using an electron microscope, only to see the pillar-like nanostructures arranged irregularly and at a random height, in contrast with regular-size nanostructures responsible for the low reflection of other animals.
Irregularity of the size and distribution of nanostructures on the surface of the butterfly wing causes low reflection of light at all view angles [Credit: KIT]
The typical height of the minuscule pillars varied between 400 and 600nm, with the distance of the pillars ranging from 100 to 140nm, or about one thousandth of the diameter of a human hair. In simulations the researchers modelled this irregularity of the nanopillars and found that it was still anti-glare and almost non-reflective.
Radwanul Hasan Siddique, who discovered the effect, said: “In contrast to other natural phenomena, where regularity is of top priority, the glasswing butterfly uses an apparent chaos to reach effects that are also fascinating for us humans.”
The team will work next on the practical implementation of the process , although, prototype experiments have already revealed that this type of surface coating also has water-repellent and self-cleaning effect.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.