Common Oriental Hornet Turns Sunlight into Electricity

19th Apr 2013

A research team from the Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics and Astronomy has discovered that common Oriental hornets show a remarkable ability to harness energy from the sun, much like a plant. They hope that with further study they could understand and replicate this process and then apply it to other solar energy generation devices.

Scientists around the world have tried, unsuccessfully, to replicate the process of photosynthesis which plants use to turn energy from the sun into useable energy for growth. It is hoped that exploring the process by which the hornet efficiently converts the sun’s rays into electricity will provide the ability for suits that allow living beings to also produce their own electricity.

Research into the hornet has so far found that the chitin exoskeleton of the hornet converts the abdomen into tiny solar cells, and that the hornet’s ability to harvest capacity is directly proportional to the intensity of the sun.

Grooves in the body of the hornet split the sun’s light into diverging beams which are then absorbed by the yellow and brown bands across the abdomen. The brown bands split the light, whilst the yellow bands absorb it, and convert it into electricity in the xanthopterin pigment that gives the bands their yellow colour. All the while the outer shell of the skin prevents the light from escaping.

Researchers have tried to replicate the hornet’s body structure as a new method to harvest solar energy, but much like with photosynthesis, success remains elusive.

By. James Burgess