Search Menu
Photonics Media Photonics Marketplace Photonics Spectra BioPhotonics Vision Spectra Photonics Showcase Photonics ProdSpec Photonics Handbook

Butterfly Wings Inspire Thermal Imagers

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email
NISKAYUNA, N.Y., Feb. 13, 2012 — Mother Nature’s 5-million-year-old butterfly design has led to the development of a new bio-inspired sensor that is faster, smaller and more sensitive than today’s thermal imaging devices.

Dr. Radislav Potyrailo and colleagues at GE Global Research, the technology development arm for the General Electric Co., have copied the microscopic design on the iridescent wings of the Morpho sulkowskyi butterfly to develop thermal imagers for more advanced applications for industrial inspection, medical diagnostics and the military.

Morpho butterfly scales doped with single-walled carbon nanotubes efficiently detect mid-wave infrared radiation as visible iridescence changes. The nanoscale pitch and the extremely small thermal mass of these biological optical resonators provide outstanding response sensitivity and speed in a heat-sink-free operation. (Image: Business Wire)

The scientists achieved this feat by doping the scales of the Morpho butterfly with single-walled carbon nanotubes to efficiently detect mid-wave infrared radiation as visible iridescence changes. The thermal imagers can sense temperature changes down to 0.02 °C at a response rate of 1/40 of a second.

Thermal imaging is utilized in a variety of industrial, medical and military applications today, ranging from the noninvasive inspection of industrial components and medical diagnostics to military applications such as thermal vision goggles and others. The new bio-inspired nanostructured system could enable broader application of thermal imaging by improving the manufacturability, image resolution, sensitivity and response time of new systems.

The new detection concept could be used in many applications where visual heat maps of imaged areas serve as a valuable condition indicator. For medical diagnostics, the imagers could better visualize inflammation in the body and detect changes in a patient’s health earlier. To aid firefighters, the technology could be used for handheld devices that enhance safety in operational situations. The nanostructured system also could be used to improve public safety and homeland protection through thermal security surveillance, or to see things at night and during the day in much greater detail than before.

The discovery resulted from studies led by Potyrailo and conducted at GE Global Research on the technological applications of photonic properties of Morpho butterfly wing scales. The team is now working toward fabricating photonic nanostructures inspired by the butterfly wing scales for highly selective vapor sensing applications. Commercial applications could reach the market within the next five years.

The findings were reported in Nature Photonics.

For more information, visit:
Feb 2012
AmericasBiophotonicsbutterfly wingsdefenseGeGE Global ResearchGeneral Electrichomeland securityimagingindustrialindustrial inspectioninfrared detectorsiridescent wingsmedical diagnosticsmorpho butterflynanostructured systemsNew Yorknight visionphotonic nanostructuresRadislav PotyrailoResearch & TechnologysensingSensors & Detectorsthermal imagersthermal imaging sensorsthermal security surveillancethermal visionthermal vision gogglesvapor sensingvisual heat maps

back to top
Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube RSS
©2023 Photonics Media, 100 West St., Pittsfield, MA, 01201 USA, [email protected]

Photonics Media, Laurin Publishing
x We deliver – right to your inbox. Subscribe FREE to our newsletters.
We use cookies to improve user experience and analyze our website traffic as stated in our Privacy Policy. By using this website, you agree to the use of cookies unless you have disabled them.