Butterfly Wings Inspire New GE-DARPA Advanced Sensors Project

Research group looks to replicate sensitivity of Morphos butterfly wings and apply to new generation of sensor technology

Researchers at GE Global Research have received $6.5 Million in DARPA funding to study butterfly technology to develop novel sensors that could be used for defense (detect vapors signaling a chemical attack) or medical applications (disease biomarkers on a person’s breath).

A few years ago, researchers discovered that the scales on the wings of a Morphos butterfly possess highly advanced sensing abilities that can pick molecules out of the atmosphere. Underneath the scales, nanostructures on the wings react to different vapors, changing the spectral reflectivity of the wings depending on what the wings are exposed to. GE’s researchers will also partner with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the State University of New York at Albany and the University of Exeter on the DARPA project.

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