Solar power might be nature's most plentiful and benign source of energy, but shiny black solar cells can lure water insects away from critical breeding areas, a Michigan State University scientist and colleagues warn.
Applying white grids or other methods to break up the polarized reflection of light, however, makes mayflies and other aquatic insects far less likely to deposit eggs on the panels thinking that they are water, the group discovered.
"This research demonstrates that solar panels are a strong new source of polarized light pollution that creates ecological traps for many types of insect," says Bruce Robertson, a research associate at MSU's Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners. "This is of significant conservation importance given the radical expansion in solar energy development and the strong negative impacts of ecological traps on animal populations."
Using nonpolarizing white grids, he adds, demonstrates a novel approach to reducing the attractiveness of a false habitat by applying what biologists call habitat fragmentation. That is an effect that usually is harmful to species, but in this case promises to solve a conservation problem.
Robertson's team estimates that adding white markings to solar cells might reduce their ability to collect solar energy by perhaps 1.8 percent, depending on the amount of space the strips cover.
Conventional solar cells share a problem with glass-clad buildings and other expanses of shiny dark surfaces – even vehicles. Reflected sunlight becomes polarized, or aligned in a single, often horizontal plane, which is how at least 300 species of insect recognize the surface of water bodies to lay their eggs.
When species such as mayflies and caddis flies mistake shiny dark surfaces for water, they set themselves up for reproductive failure and often become easy targets for predators, Robertson and colleagues noted in a recent online article in the journal Conservation Biology. Local population collapse could be a result, with cascading impacts on predators and other species up the food chain.
Humans typically recognize reflected sunlight as glare, which polarized sunglasses overcome by filtering the horizontal waves through vertically polarized lenses.
Robertson conducted his research in Hungary with scientists associated with Eotvos University in Budapest and Szent Istvan University in Godollo, Hungary. Their work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the Hungarian Science Foundation.
Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.
Mark Fellows | EurekAlert!
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences