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Oriental hornet  (Source: Commons)
Could lead to the development of better solar cells

Tel Aviv University scientists have found that Oriental hornets have similar capabilities as plants when it comes to the process of photosynthesis. 

Professor David Bergman, a physicist and professor at Tel Aviv University's School of Physics and Astronomy, along with Professor Jacob Ishay, of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and Professor Marian Plotkin, a doctoral candidate, have studied the Oriental hornet and found that certain parts of its body are capable of converting the sun's energy into electric power much like plants do during photosynthesis. 

Entomologists have recorded similar results when studying Oriental wasps. They found that the wasps were more active during the afternoon when the sun was at its highest point rather than the early morning when the sun was just rising, or at night. The same results were recorded for hornets, who were digging more energetically when the sun was up. 

Several years ago, Bergman and his team discovered that the Oriental hornet's exoskeleton, or outer body shell, was capable of harvesting solar energy. Since this discovery, the researchers have tried to imitate this process by studying all the elements that could affect how this occurs. Humidity, temperature, solar radiation and other weather-related conditions were studied, and the results showed that UVB radiation solely caused the change in the hornet's behavior. The hornet's body also contains a heat pump system that keeps it cool despite absorbing the suns energy. 

In addition, the researchers found that the yellow and brown stripes on the Oriental hornet's abdomen specifically allow a photo-voltaic effect, absorbing radiation while the yellow pigment converts it into electric power. The brown shell is made from grooves that split the light into separate beams, and the yellow is made from "pinhole depressions" holding a pigment called xanthopterin. 

Researchers have tried to imitate this process in the lab, but had poor results. They could not reach the same efficiency rates of energy collection as the Oriental hornets. But they plan to continue improving their methods to mimic this process in order to better understand it and possibly create better solar cells based on the findings. 

"The interesting thing here is that a living biological creature does a thing like that," said Bergman. "The hornet may have discovered things that we do not yet know."

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RE: Being more active when there is sun light...
By vol7ron on 1/7/2011 8:11:16 PM , Rating: 5
But the unanswered question is how are they taking advantage of the electricity - that's the true technology.

If they're using pure electricity, as opposed to chemical synapsis (as we do), it is sort of marvelous. I'm more curious about what the oriental hornet is eating.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 1/10/2011 7:58:49 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly what I was thinking. Electric hornets! Imagine if the dogs had had electric hornets in their mouths instead of mere bees!

</obscure reference>

RE: Being more active when there is sun light...
By Schrag4 on 1/10/2011 9:50:20 AM , Rating: 2
Hey! I take offense! That is NOT an obscure reference! We who know the reference are the normal ones, not the other way around!

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 1/10/2011 10:57:58 AM , Rating: 2
We know that, but the hoi polloi mustn't catch on.

By geddarkstorm on 1/10/2011 2:51:26 PM , Rating: 2
It sounds like it's being used in some sort of heat pump system the hornet has. Now that THAT works... is a real mystery and worthy of study.

Now, all this gives the hornet a new niche to exploit that other hornets cannot: noon time.

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