CLOSE
iStock
iStock

Giant Clams Could Help Us Make Better Screens and Solar Cells

iStock
iStock

The giant clams native to the Pacific and Indian oceans are among a unique group of animals that can use iridescent cells to produce color. Rather than relying on pigment, these creatures have cells known as iridocytes—like those found on the exterior flesh of a giant clam—that use their structure to scatter light waves and produce iridescent shades. Scientists are hoping that by better understanding how this phenomenon works in giant clams they will be able to create more efficient solar panels and color displays in the future.

In a study published this month in the scientific journal Optica [PDF], researchers from the University of California in Santa Barbara detail their investigation into how the clam is able to produce each of its shades. In the species Tridacna maxima and Tridacna derasa, for example, the clams generate their white hues by mixing colors in a way similar to how video displays mix red, blue, and green pixels to create white.

Giant clams rely on sunlight to make their color, while most color displays we see today use light sources like LEDs. If researchers can find a way to create nanostructures for screens modeled after iridocytes, then smartphones, tablets, and TVs could possibly use the ambient light around them to generate color. Not only would this be more energy efficient, but it would be easier on the eyes as well.

The researchers also looked into how this mechanism in giant clams could be used to improve efficiency in solar panels. "If we could use what we learned from the clams to build a very efficient distributed light-gathering system, then we could use that to make more efficient 3D solar cells that require less area than our present rooftop and land-based solar farms," the study’s lead author Amitabh Ghoshal said in a statement. The team is now moving forward with their findings to design and test solar cells that take their inspiration from clam biology.

[h/t: Mashable]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Courtesy of The National Aviary
arrow
Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
iStock
iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios