Butterfly-inspired thermal imager under development at GE

Doping the butterfly scales of Morpho butterflies with nanotubes can create new thermal imaging sensors

Researchers at General Electric (Fairfield, CT, USA) have demonstrated that by doping the butterfly scales of Morpho butterflies with single-walled carbon nanotubes, they can create new highly-sensitive thermal imaging sensors.

The thermal sensors can sense temperature changes down to 0.02 degrees Celsius, and changes in temperature at a response rate of one fortieth of a second.

In a recent paper in Nature, they describe how computational analysis can be used to explain the origin of the thermal response of the sensors and used to guide new bio-inspired thermal imaging sensors in the future.

The discovery is a result of extensive studies conducted at GE Global Research on the technological applications of photonic properties of Morpho butterfly wing scales led by Radislav Potyrailo, Principal Scientist at GE Global Research.

Dr. Potyrailo noted that his teams are also working on the fabrication of photonic nanostructures inspired by Morpho butterfly wing scales, with commercial applications that could reach the market within the next five years.

GE’s new bio-inspired nanostructured system could eventually broaden the application of thermal imaging systems by improving the manufacturability, image resolution, sensitivity, and response time of new systems at a lower cost.

-- By Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design

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