Morpho butterfly wings inspire thermal imaging breakthrough

Posted by Shane McGlaun

GE commercials used to tout the fact that the company brought good things to life. Well, the corporation's tagline these days is "imagination at work," and I think both slogans adequately describe what GE does very well.

Indeed, scientists who work for GE are currently exploring methods of improving thermal imaging for medical diagnostic equipment, surveillance, inspection, and military applications.

The latest news to surface from GE?

A bio-inspired  technological advance that represents a giant leap forward for thermal imaging devices.

Indeed, the above-mentioned  breakthrough was achieved with the help of GE researchers studying Morpho butterfly wings.

The breakthrough is likely to have a hand in improving a number of next-gen imaging devices, including medical diagnostic equipment and handheld units. To be sure,  nanostructures on Morpho butterfly wings coated with carbon nanotubes are capable of sensing temperature changes down to 0.02 degrees Celsius - at an impressive response rate of 1/40 of a second.

"The iridescence of Morpho butterflies has inspired our team for yet another technological opportunity. This time we see the potential to develop the next generation of thermal imaging sensors that deliver higher sensitivity and faster response times in a more simplified, cost-effective design," explained Dr. Radislav Potyrailo, Principal Scientist at GE Global Research who leads GE’s bio-inspired photonics programs.

"This new class of thermal imaging sensors promises significant improvements over existing detectors in their image quality, speed, sensitivity, size, power requirements, and cost. GE’s bio-inspired design also promises exciting new thermal imaging applications such as in advanced medical diagnostics to detect changes in a person’s health or in thermal vision goggles for the military to allow soldiers to see things during the day and at night with much greater specificity and detail."