Learn about strategic and sustainable solutions!
February 2018
Strategy: Butterfly Power!
Did you know the wings of a butterfly have inspired a new type of solar cell that is more efficient at harvesting light than traditional solar panels? Based on the tenets of biomimicry, scientists have studied the wings of the rose butterfly and copied the structure to create thin, efficient solar cells. Nature is innovative, smart, and awesome -- we can learn so much by observing the natural world around us.

During a trip to South Florida in January, Joan had the opportunity to visit Butterfly World and observe butterflies and birds in one of the world's largest indoor butterfly areas. At any given time, up to fifty species of butterflies and up to several thousand butterflies are flying around the aviaries. Amazed at the diversity of flitting wings of wonder motivated Joan to learn more about the properties of butterfly wings and the solar power they inspire. For fun, below are photos from Joan's excursion.
Scientists from KIT and Caltech utilize the disordered nanoholes of the black butterfly to improve solar cell performance. Image: Radwanul Hasan Siddique, KIT/Caltech
Bright Blue Butterfly
Blue Morpho, a rainforest butterfly with water repellant wings.
This Cabbage Butterfly hitched a ride with Joan's Dad, Ted!
Red, black and white longwing, also called Piano Key
Integration: Is Solar in Your life?
Does your home or business either generate on-site or buy solar energy?
Yes, there are solar panels on the property
Yes, solar power is specified on the energy bill or through a purchase agreement
No, although I am interested in learning more about it
Not at this time
Results: SustainVU's Solar Charging Stations
Solar powered charging table
Sustain VU of Vanderbilt University is a university-wide, umbrella identity for the diverse sustainable programs and solutions on Vanderbilt's Nashville campus. Through education, research, and outreach, SustainVU develops and transfers knowledge, increases awareness, and promotes lifelong learning about sustainability best practices.

Vanderbilt University has implemented programs and received awards for many sustainability initiatives such as:

  • Waste reduction and composting,
  • Energy efficiency,
  • Promotion of a bike friendly campus,
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and
  • Installation of a solar hot water heater system and solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

Additionally, Sustain VU partnered with EnerFusion, Inc . to install solar charging stations (pictured at right) on the Vanderbilt campus. The Solar-Dok serves both as a functional element and as an educational project which introduces people to the practical application of alternative energy that can benefit students, faculty and staff on a daily basis.
About Plisko Sustainable Solutions
Joan with Lorikeets
Joan feeding the lorikeets at Butterfly World
Joan Plisko, PhD, President
Marc Plisko, CIH, Vice President
Plisko Sustainable Solutions (PSS) can help your company develop, optimize, and assess environmental health, exposure assessment, and sustainability programs. The PSS team will provide expertise and guidance as you improve your company's economic, environmental, and social performance.