Top Story: December 7, 2010

Solar Powered Insect

Hornet

As humans improve upon solar technology—harnessing the sun’s light for energy—plants must be howling with laughter. With photosynthesis, they’ve been doing exactly that, quite efficiently, for hundreds of millions of years.

Now scientists have discovered an insect that might also convert the sun’s energy for fuel. Publishing in the journal Naturwissenschaften, the researchers describe the process by which the Oriental hornet uses its exoskeleton to absorb sunlight.

Since the 1990s, scientists noticed that these insects were different. They are most active during the hottest, brightest part of the day, unlike most wasps. Around that time, scientists also discovered that the Oriental hornet could actually produce voltage along its exoskeleton.

According to the PLoS Blog The Gleaming Retort, in 2009, the same scientists:

…showed that, unexpectedly, a variety of important metabolic activities seem to center on the yellow abdominal stripes of the Oriental hornets rather than around the fat bodies that normally handle them in insects. (Think about what this means: if the same arrangement applied to humans, our skin would be doing the job of our livers.)

Remember, beauty is not always only skin deep. The current research dug deeper into the exoskeleton. Looking at the brown and yellow areas of the hornet, the scientists went all the way down to the nano-level of its exoskeleton. They found that the yellow area would scatter the light, not reflect it, allowing it to penetrate into the deep layers of the exoskeleton. Essentially, the yellow areas were trapping the sunlight.

With the trapped sunlight, the yellow pigment, Xanthopterin, then works to use it. According to lead author Marian Plotkin, in BBC News:

"Xanthopterin works as a light harvesting molecule transforming light into electrical energy."

So do these Oriental hornets use photsynthesis to power their movements? According to Discover’s Discoblog, there’s not yet enough evidence

… but they’re working on it.

Image by MattiPaavola/Wikimedia Commons

comments

  • http://build-home-solar-panel.com/solar-panels-effective-solar-energy Best Solar Panels

    The sun has been a source of valuable energy. The plants and animals long found out about this and has put it to many uses. It is good to know that man are now realizing how essential the sun is.

  • http://www.carlos-gallastegui.com Carlos Gallastegui

    Energy and entropy considerations are invariably important in almost all chemical studies. Chemical substances are classified in terms of their structure, phase as well as their chemical compositions. They can be analyzed using the tools of chemical analysis, e.g. spectroscopy and chromatography. Scientists engaged in chemical research are known as chemists. Most chemists specialize in one or more sub-disciplines.

  • http://www.sitevaluestats.com/ Site value stats

     The most influential Muslim chemists were Jābir ibn Hayyān (Geber, d. 815), al-Kindi (d. 873), al-Razi (d. 925), al-Biruni (d. 1048) and Alhazen (d. 1039). The works of Jābir became more widely known in Europe through Latin translations by a pseudo-Geber in 14th century Spain, who also wrote some of his own books under the pen name “Geber”. The contribution of Indian alchemists and metallurgists in the development of chemistry was also quite significant

  • http://www.pingmylink.com/ Ping Service & web submission

     The World Wide Web has become a major delivery platform for web
    development a variety of complex and sophisticated enterprise
    applications in several domains. In addition to their inherent
    multifaceted functionality, these web applications exhibit complex
    behavior and place some unique demands on their usability, performance,
    security and ability to grow and evolve

Previous Top Stories

 

About Science Today

Science Today is the California Academy of Sciences’ channel for current stories on cutting-edge technologies, life, Earth, space and sustainability. Content is produced in-house and is distributed throughout the museum, on the internet and through various partners. Please share your comments on what you find important in the changing world of science.