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Butterfly Biomimicry
Jamais Cascio, 18 Nov 05

We may end up getting a boost to the efficiency of LED-based lighting thanks to lepidopterists.

African Swallowtail butterflies signal each other using fluorescent patches on their wings. Scales on the wings function as "2D photonic crystals," focusing and enhancing the signal by trapping light particles and preventing them from spreading in all directions. This is an identical process to a recent breakthrough in high-emission LED design -- but even more efficient.

"Unlike the diodes, the butterfly's system clearly doesn't have semiconductor in it and it doesn't produce its own radiative energy," Dr Vukusic told the BBC News website "That makes it doubly efficient in a way.

"But the way light is extracted from the butterfly's system is more than an analogy - it's all but identical in design to the LED."

Dr Vukusic agreed that studying natural designs such as this could help scientists improve upon manmade devices.

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