Moth EyeIt is quite amazing how some of the greatest minds the world has to offer can gain inspiration for a new invention from the smallest of sources. A team of physicists in New York have developed nanoscale materials which could improve X-ray clarity and decrease radiation levels of those exposed in the future, using the eyes of a moth insect as an unusual, if ingenious example as a base for research.

The Moth Inspiration

Moth eyes, much like butterflies and other small insects, have large compound eyes comprised of miniscule photoreceptors or ‘mini-eyes’, which number in their thousands. The key difference in terms of the research conducted found between butterfly eyes and a moth’s eyes is that the moth’s eye structure has an anti-reflective capability, which is a reason why they are hard to detect at night when hurtling round your bedroom as you try and sleep and reduces the light source onto their eye so predators cannot easily find them.

This is not the first time moth’s have been employed to help out the human race they share the planet with, with the flying insect a go to example during the creation of solar panel coatings and military devices, as if to prove that they are not just a source of annoyance as they flutter about our heads uninvitingly.

The Study and what it Means for the Future of Radiation Technology

The research team in New York City University was lead by physics professor, Yasha Yi, with the aim of using moth eyes reflective stealth like eye component as a base for improving the efficiency and resolution of X-ray images and similar medical devices. The focus of the research was on creating an improvement to existing scintillation materials, or a compound which can absorb particle energy and re-emit it in light form. Scintillators are the basis for radiographic imaging in converting the rays emitting from a patient into an image which can be readily interpreted by a radiographer.

The danger of increasing the light input of X-ray machines is that radiation increases as a result. The lab experiments conducted by Li looked to nanoscale materials to improve the efficiency of the conversion of light, which consists of 500-nanometers of bioinspired film, made of pyramid-shaped crystals with protrusions made of silicon nitride, creating the moth eye structure effect for greater extraction of light.
The results found that adding the film to a scintillator of an X-ray unit increased intensity of emitted light by an impressive 175 per cent. Yi believes it will take up to five years to perfect and hone the techniques used, but the future of safe and more effective X-ray systems appears to have been crafted.

Jamie loves to keep up with the latest science and tech developments and blogs for glasses retailer Direct Sight.