The oriental hornet has this special solar capability and in the science world they refer to these cool phenomenons in nature as nano science.
More often than not scientists study what nature has already invented and then try to reproduce something like it to reproduce it in our technology for greater efficiency.
Many times by studying something like an oriental hornet that has natural solar cells we can learn how to produce a copy using nano technology that is cheaper than doing it the old way.
The pigments in the hornet have power producing colors that scientists consider built in “solar cells”. The cells generate electricity from sunlight which is the first time this has ever been discovered in the animal kingdom.
Scientists new long ago that hornets produced electricity in their exoskeletons but they had no idea how they did it until recently.
Marian Plotkin of Tel-Aviv University is one of the scientists credited with discovering the natural solar cells in a hornet.
Jacob Ishay found out the discovery by noticing the hornet would be exerting most of its energy during extreme hot times of the day. It seemed counterproductive to work when the day was the hottest.
A light bulb soon went off while observing this and the connection was made that electricity must be being produced while the hornet flies around in the hot of the sun and soon after this was proven.
The exoskeleton of the hornet was closely examined to see just how the electricity is generated. They did not find any turbines spinning inside the body but did see that the yellow pigments trapped light while the brown tissue generated the power.
The scientists are still bewildered as to how the electricity is used.
The brown tissue in the hornet actually has quite a bit of melanin which humans use to protect their skin from ultraviolet rays by taking the suns light and absorbing and turning it into heat.
The scientists found grooves in the brown part of the exoskeleton that capture the light and channel the rays into the tissue to allow the rays to be further broken apart.
The groove finding makes you wonder if scientists will extrapolate the nano pattern found in the exoskeleton and create solar panels that mimic that pattern in order to make them more efficient.
Only about 1 % of the light that hits the brown tissue is reflected away proving that this nano-pattern is indeed very efficient at what it does.
The yellow pigment is called xanthopterin and is a nano pattern that gives butterfly’s their wing color. The scientists liquefied this substance and put the solution in a solar cell electrode.
When light was shined on the electrode it immediately produced electricity.
In summary, I would love to see a prototype solar cell that makes use of many of the nano-pattern discoveries found in this hornet.
The main problem with solar cells to this day is how very inefficient they are when compared to cost which is why Germany now pays over 40 cents per kilowatt hour because of this inefficiency problem and their early adoption of solar technology. Read more about this on this article