Nano surface acting like a leaf

Physicists in Oulu have succeeded in developing an energy efficient nano surface by modelling the surface structure of leaves. With a nano coating on polymer surface the energy output of solar panels will increase as much as 17 per cent. Nano coatings can also be utilized in heat and light generation in greenhouses, for example.

The Nano and Molecular Systems Research Unit in the University of Oulu published, by the direction of researcher Wei Cao, their observations on the manufacture of functional nano materials with bio mimicry in 2015, first in the world. Lotus and bambu leaves served as some of the subjects of biomimicry (ie. mimicking organisms such as plants).

”Because of evolution, plants have optimized their way of collecting sun rays. We merely copy the surface structure of leaves of various plants on a polymere plastic foil. When this foil is placed on a solar panel, it will not receive any more energy, but back reflection decreases and energy output increases”, says professor Marko Huttula, director of the Nano and Molecular Systems research unit.

With a nanostructure it is possible to enhance the utilizing of the heat and light of the Sun in greenhouses, for example. Increasing the share of solar energy in greenhouses would serve sustainable development, as production of winter vegetables would require less purchased heat. With biomimicry, a nano surface can also be made water resistent and self-cleaning.

Researchers have managed to copy a nanosurface one millionth of a millimeter also directly on a glass surface and on silicon. The innovation can therefore even alter the production method of solar panels.

“In the future we are going to see if this method can be further developed by combining natural models, and that outdo the results of evolution”, says Huttula.

The production method and applications of the nano surface have been patented. There is a spin off company founded on the research as well. There has been, and still is, research and business activity in close cooperation with Chinese researchers, universities and companies. Professor Marko Huttula says that active cooperation with top experts and a connection with large production markets is crucial for further development of the innovation.

The Nano and Molecular Systems Research Unit in the University of Oulu, consisting of 45 members, studies the physics of nano materials and seeks to understand and modify the way materials act on the molecular level. The aim of the research is to get new information and innovations on, for example, nanocatalysis materials and atmospherical nanoparticles. The research is multidisciplinary and extends to wood and steel research.

Nano and Molecular Systems Research Unit

 

More information and sources:

 

Replication of Leaf Surface. Structures for Light Harvesting (www.nature.com/scientificreports 2015)

A computational study of antireflection structures bio-mimicked from leaf surface morphologies (ScienceDirect.com 2016)

Last updated: 8.12.2016