Inspired by the natural properties of the blue Morpho butterfly's wings, a team of researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Osaka, Japan, and colleagues in Japan and France, have developed a nanobiocomposite material may be useful in future wearable electronic devices, highly sensitive light sensors, and sustainable batteries. A report on the new hybrid material appears in the journal ACS Nano.

Morpho butterfly wings display natural properties that cannot currently by reproduced artificially. In addition to being lightweight, thin, and flexible, the wings absorb solar energy, shed water quickly, and are self-cleaning. While working with carbon termed carbon nanotubes (CNTs), which also have unique electrical, mechanical, thermal, and optical properties the team set out to combine the butterfly wings and nanotubes to produce an all-new hybrid material.

They grew a honeycomb network of carbon nanotubes on Morpho butterfly wings, creating a composite material that could be activated with a laser. The resulting material heated up faster than the original components by themselves, exhibited high electrical conductivity and had the ability to copy DNA on its surface without absorbing it.