Original Paper

Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 97, Issue 12, pp 1067-1076

Solar energy harvesting in the epicuticle of the oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis)

  • Marian PlotkinAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv University Email author 
  • , Idan HodAffiliated withInstitute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, Department of Chemistry, Bar Ilan University
  • , Arie ZabanAffiliated withInstitute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, Department of Chemistry, Bar Ilan University
  • , Stuart A. BodenAffiliated withNano Research Group, Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton
  • , Darren M. BagnallAffiliated withNano Research Group, Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton
  • , Dmitry GalushkoAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
  • , David J. BergmanAffiliated withSchool of Physics and Astronomy, Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, Tel-Aviv University

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Abstract

The Oriental hornet worker correlates its digging activity with solar insolation. Solar radiation passes through the epicuticle, which exhibits a grating-like structure, and continues to pass through layers of the exo-endocuticle until it is absorbed by the pigment melanin in the brown-colored cuticle or xanthopterin in the yellow-colored cuticle. The correlation between digging activity and the ability of the cuticle to absorb part of the solar radiation implies that the Oriental hornet may harvest parts of the solar radiation. In this study, we explore this intriguing possibility by analyzing the biophysical properties of the cuticle. We use rigorous coupled wave analysis simulations to show that the cuticle surfaces are structured to reduced reflectance and act as diffraction gratings to trap light and increase the amount absorbed in the cuticle. A dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) was constructed in order to show the ability of xanthopterin to serve as a light-harvesting molecule.

Keywords

Oriental hornet Vespa orientalis Cuticle Dye-sensitized solar cell IV measurements Antireflection Light trapping Diffraction grating