Products feature butterfly effect

Qinetiq and Exeter University are taking part in a three-year research project worth £3.2m to develop new products inspired by the unique structure of butterfly wings.

The team has uncovered the way in which the physical properties of butterflies’ wings produce iridescence.

By mimicking the unique structures of these wings, the team aims to develop new products in the markets of anti-counterfeit technology, radio-frequency identification technology, Wi-Fi efficiency and security.

The project is funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) £55m Knowledge Transfer Accounts (KTA), which were established to help turn research into business innovation.

The team aims to launch its first innovation in spring 2010 and will be hosting a number of investor forum events at the university and in London.

‘Butterfly wings create a myriad of visual effects through subtle changes in the size, shape or structure of fine scales on their surface that can refract or absorb light and produce vivid colours,’ said Qinetiq’s Dr Andrew Treen.

‘By understanding the underlying optical properties, we can develop and apply the principles to a variety of other commercial applications in the infrared, microwave and radio wave segments of the spectrum and develop solutions that will help society. The natural world still holds many of secrets but this project will hopefully unlock a few more of them.’