This Butterfly Could Make Thermal Imaging Work Better
Feb 20, 2012 11:29
The current problem with night vision googles is that its cumbersome to use and that it doesn't provide an accurate visual signature. It relies on thermal imaging and the problem is that they need to have something to cool them down when locking onto a heat signature.
The current solution relies on a process called "heatsink", which is like a radiator cooling your car engine, made with liquid helium to cool down the thermal energy devices to keep the picture clear. Scientists from General Electric may have found a solution from studying the unique properties of a South American butterfly called Morpho.
The scales on the butterfly have the ability to absorb and reflect light at different wavelengths and can be manipulated by changing the temperature on the scales. They are made of chitin a natural polymer of glucosamine found
everywhere from the exoskeletons of crabs and shrimp to insects like the
butterfly and even the cell walls of funghi. Chitin has a low capacity
for heat — meaning it heats and cools very easily.
With its unique light absorption and reflection properties combined with a natural way to cool it down quickly, it could lead to a super efficient thermal imaging device. Research is on-going for this.