Oh, the things we can learn from nature! Take butterflies, for example. An examination of the microscopic properties of butterfly wings by scientists in China and Japan has led to a new idea in solar cells, one which the scientists say could yield a greater efficiency than most other solar cells on the market.
Using an electron microscope, the team of scientists from three Chinese and Japanese universities found that butterfly wings are comprised of a unique pattern of arranged ridges and ribs consisting of nanoparticles. The team used modern fabrication methods to mimic the "quasi-honeycomb like structure, shallow concavities structure, and cross-ribbing structure" of the wings onto a "fluorine-doped tin-oxide-coated glass substrate" -- in other words, highly efficient dye-sensitized solar cells, also known as Grätzel cells.
How efficient? "Laboratory tests showed that the butterfly wing solar collector absorbed light more efficiently than conventional dye-sensitized cells." The researchers also said that their fabrication process "is simpler and faster than other methods."
You can read their whole paper here.