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Oriental hornet  (Source: Sciencedaily.com/Wikimedia 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: Photosynthesis
By sprockkets on 1/7/2011 11:15:09 PM , Rating: 0
Quoting from the original article:

quote:
The team determined that the brown shell of the hornet was made from grooves that split light into diverging beams. The yellow stripe on the abdomen is made from pinhole depressions, and contains a pigment called xanthopterin. Together, the light diverging grooves, pinhole depressions and xanthopterin change light into electrical energy. The shell traps the light and the pigment does the conversion.


You can't say the author of the article on DT made a mistake when the original articles specifically states it.


RE: Photosynthesis
By Motamid on 1/8/2011 3:04:55 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps I was unclear, but I am not stating that these hornets are not capable of converting solar energy into electricity. They do according to the original article and that is why I find them so intriguing.

What I was trying to explain is that photosynthesis does not produce directly usable electricity. Instead it uses light to energize electrons to aid in certain chemical reactions. It essentially stores the energy in sugars rather than producing a current.


RE: Photosynthesis
By sprockkets on 1/8/11, Rating: 0
RE: Photosynthesis
By Motamid on 1/9/2011 2:59:22 AM , Rating: 2
Correct, although I don't remember the exact article.


RE: Photosynthesis
By surt on 1/8/2011 6:34:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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


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