Sunday, August 28, 2011

Butterfly wings as hard templates for nano metals

Templating is an age-old technique since the first human settlers shaped clay in wooden boxes. Several thousand years later, mesoscale architects used porous silica as hard templates (just like wooden boxes) to give form to carbon and other important matter. Now some brilliant scientists have copied one of the most delicate beings of the biosphere, the butterflies.

Yongwen Tan et al. (from State Key Laboratory of Metal Matrix Composites, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China) used a natural template from butterfly wings (type Euploea mulciber) to achieve "hierarchical" sub-micrometer Co, Ni, Cu, Pd, Ag, Pt, and Au replicas. Although trenches are much larger than nanoscale, this method brings excitement and a subsequent intense research to copy fine texture of biomaterials available on the planet. Good work.

Many butterflies must have been sacrificed for this study. The cost of science or the loss of biota?