Bluebird-inspired material could boost battery life

Bluebird-inspired material could boost battery life

The eastern bluebird isn’t simply beautiful to look at. Its feathers also feature a unique structure that could revolutionise sustainable applications such as batteries and water filtration.

Specifically, the brilliant blue of the bird’s wings isn’t the result of colour pigmentation. Instead, it’s due to a network of channels with a diameter of a few hundred nanometres, traversing the feathers.

This network structure inspired researchers at ETH Zurich to replicate this material in the lab. They have now developed a synthetic material that exhibits the same structural design of the bluebird’s feathers — with the potential to deliver practical use cases, such as improved battery life.

The researchers experimented with a transparent silicone rubber that can be both stretched and deformed. They placed it in an oily solution, leaving it to swell for several days in an oven heated at 60 °C. They then cooled and extracted it.

The team observed that the rubber’s nanostructure had changed during the procedure and they identified similar network structures to the ones in the bluebird’s feathers. The only essential difference was the thickness of the formed channels: the synthetic material was 800 nanometres next to the feather’s 200 nanometres.

Bluebird feather structure and synthetic material replication