New Cooling Film was Inspired by Butterflies

This new film reflects light instead of absorbing it.


Morpho butterfly wings inspired the new cooling film.

(Darkdiamond67 /

Morpho butterflies are some of the most beautiful butterflies in the world, thanks to their dazzling gem-like blue wings. Now the scientific principles behind those blue wings could help keep humanity cool while the world heats up.

Now, a new material inspired by butterfly wings was developed by researchers from Shenzhen University in China. This material, a type of colored film, can help keep the objects it is attached to cooler than the ambient temperature around it. This new invention could revolutionize a myriad of industries. 

Inspired by Nature
The problem of color and the absorption of heat has been one that has vexed scientists for centuries. According to a news release from the Optica organization, any object that contains color will heat up faster than an object that is white

That is because color is an expression of lightwaves that are reflected back to the eye as opposed to being absorbed. The absorption of the lightwaves creates heat. This is why white clothing is cooler than colored clothing. 

White reflects all lightwaves back into the atmosphere, while colors only reflect some lightwaves back into the atmosphere. This somewhat complex issue has implications for a surprising number of real-word issues. 

“In buildings, large amounts of energy are used for cooling and ventilation, and running the air conditioner in electric cars can reduce the driving range by more than half,” lead researcher of the study, Dr. Wanlin Wang from Shenzhen University, told Interesting Engineering.

In order to create a material that could circumvent these issues, Wang and his team looked to nature for inspiration. Specifically, they looked at the Morpho butterfly. According to New Scientist, the wings of this brilliantly blue butterfly are made of nanoparticles that bend and bounce lightwaves to create color as opposed to absorbing them. This allows them to keep cool.

First in Color
Wang and his team are not the first team to create materials that allow for passive cooling using the properties of light,  however, they are the first to do so in color. All other materials have been white or clear. The Shenzhen University team’s film comes in bright blue, yellow and red, according to Optica. 

In order to test their new material and its cooling properties, according to Interesting Engineering, Wang and his team placed sheets of film in various colors on cars, clothing, cell phones, and roofs, from 9am to 4pm, both in winter and summer. They discovered that the films were more than 59∘F cooler in the winter and a whopping 95∘F cooler in the summer. 

The hope, reported New Scientist, is that eventually this type of film will be used to cover electric cars, keeping them cool and optimizing their driving range, but in truth the possibilities are endless: stained glass windows that keep skyscrapers cool, self-cooling camping tents, cool looking computers that don’t overheat, etc. All of these may one day be a reality thanks to the beautiful morpho butterfly.

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