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Take A Close Look At Butterflies Through Thermal Imaging

Butterfly Spotting Gear Through Thermal Imaging

One of the best examples of structural colour is seen while viewing the monarch butterfly wings. Butterfly wings have nanostructured chitin that refracts and reflects light, giving off a captivating iridescent colour.

Now scientists are adding carbon nanotubes to their sides to convert these nanostructures into an infrared/thermal imaging sensor (learn more about IR imaging at

As of right now, thermal imaging systems have mainly been used to check for electrical problems behind walls or to see in the dark. Doing so required the use of an often expensive infrared camera. This package must include a microbolometer which changes warmth into a difference in resistance.

The conversion created in the process is then connected to give a visual readout on a display screen or the lenses of night vision goggles.

Morpho Sulkowski Butterfly

A team of chemists at General Electric Global Research Center in New York believes that the iridescent scales on the Morpho Sulkowski butterfly could inspire an easier method that soaks up the infrared photons and produces an optical readout without the heat or cooling sink.

To test their hypothesis the team of researchers extracted scales from butterfly wings and injected them with single-walled carbon nanotubes so they could absorb more thermal radiation.

The nanostructures naturally present on the wings of the Morpho Sulkowski butterfly are capable of absorbing more than the 3-8m spectral range; adding the single-walled carbon nanotubes fast makes them heat up quickly and more radiantly.

As heat absorbed by the scientifically altered butterfly wings, the nanostructures dilate, which changes the wavelength of the light reflected. Though the experiment was successful, butterfly wings clearly are not a viable way to assemble large quantities of infrared imaging gear. The butterfly thermal imaging remains an interesting research subject.

The team suggests using other materials like silicones and fluoropolymers which can use for nanostructure assembly. The design would be based on their findings from the Morpho Sulkowski experiment but should be much more efficient than the butterfly wings.

The team now hopes to fabricate these infrared receptive nanostructures into thin films. The infrared light is expected to come through one side of the butterfly-inspired cinema and warm the movie. The alternate aspect of the movie will be iridescent and respond to the heat and change colors instantly.

Thermal Technology

Butterfly Thermal Imaging Spotting GearThat is just one unique way thermal technology is changing the world. Though the experiment discussed in this article may seem only to affect those in the scientific community, for now.

Eventually, the information gathered may be taken to a more mainstream audience just like thermal cameras.


FLIR Butterfly Spotting GearFor those interested in butterflies, the FLIR ONE can turn phones into thermal cameras almost instantly. Individuals who enjoy butterfly watching can reap the benefits of adding it to their butterfly spotting gear.

Finding clusters of butterflies hanging down like pendants during fall nights are so awesome to find. But nearly impossible to do in the dark without the use of an infrared camera.

The FLIR ONE is a fusion of the Lepton thermal camera and A VGA visible light camera. The images taken from both cameras come together to display pictures with striking detail and resolution. It’s a great way to boost nighttime butterfly spotting action.

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