Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's Solar Powered!!

A recently studied species of hornet has been found to be able to produce electricity. You may ask yourself, “How does this work?” Well it is in the pigment found in the Oriental hornet’s (Vespa orientalis) exoskeleton. Groups of scientist from Tel-Aviv University have been studying the species for some time now and were unable to determine how this electricity was being produced. They concluded that the pigment in the hornet’s yellow tissues trap light, while its brown tissue generated the electricity.

The majority of wasps and hornets that you commonly see are most active in the early morning. But entomologists have long known that Oriental hornets get most of their work done in the middle of the day when the sun is brightest. A typical day for an Oriental hornet involves digging out and expanding their nest. Scientists believe that the extra energy produced by the electricity may be used for the grueling labor.

The hornet’s brown tissues contain melanin, which is the pigment that protects human skin by absorbing ultraviolet light and ultimately changing it to heat. Further investigation of the brown tissue shows tiny groove that are able to capture light by channeling damaging rays into the tissue. The yellow tissue that is trapping the light contains a pigment called xanothopterin, which is crystalline solid that is found in the wings of butterflies and in the urine of mammals. Scientists were able to isolate the crystalline solid and were able to place it into a solid cell electrode. When light was shed on it, the pigment generated electricity!

Plotkin, M., Hod, I., Zaban, A., Boden, S., Bagnall, D., Galushko, D., & Bergman, D. (2010). Solar energy harvesting in the epicuticle of the oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis) Naturwissenschaften, 97 (12), 1067-1076 DOI: 10.1007/s00114-010-0728-1

1 comment:

  1. Catchy title and this is crazy--I would have never thought that a hornet would every have the ability to do this.