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Marian Plotkin: Solar-Powered Bugs

Marian Plotkin explores solar panels on an extraordinary hornet.

The 'solar-powered' Oriental hornet

To improve solar energy technologies, many scientists have studied plants and microbes that harness the sun’s energy through photosynthesis. According to the research of Marian Plotkin, Ph.D., scientists can now also turn to the animal kingdom for solar inspiration.

Plotkin and his colleagues have found an insect, the Oriental hornet, that appears to trap and manipulate energy from sunlight using what essentially amounts to solar panels built into its exoskeleton. These panels appear to power the hornet’s nest-digging activity, which peaks at midday when solar energy is most intense.

Presentation: “Solar Energy Harvesting in the Epicuticle of the Oriental Hornet” (PDF)

Marian Plotkin is a Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore.