An ultra-light ‘butterfly bridge’ that generates energy

Dutch Studio Solarix and architectural firms VenhoevenCS and DS Landschapsarchitecten developed an ultra-light net that can be used to safely help butterflies and other insects cross motorways, while also generating solar energy.

Anyone who has every driven a car knows that many dead bugs are wiped off windshields daily. Many of these insects, such as butterflies, are crucial for biodiversity, however. 85% of our food depends on pollination.

Because some motorways are placed on the dividing line of different natural areas, this can cause problems for some insects. For instance, the A67 in the Netherlands divides a wet and a dry area, with the Alcon blue butterfly migrating between these areas.

There are already wildlife crossings over roads, but these are aimed mainly at larger animals. Solarix, VenhoevenCS and DS Landschapsarchitecten teamed up to develop a ‘bridge’ to ensure tiny creatures can cross the motorway safely as well, by spanning a net at the height of treetops.

But, the team thought, if you are going to span a large surface across the motorway, why not make it generate solar energy as well? It kills two birds (but not insects!) with one stone.

Called The Butterfly Effect, the net is made of PET foil with a honeycomb structure. Because conventional solar panels are too heavy, the team opted for thin solar cells made of the mineral perovskite. These solar cells are not produced on large scale yet, but the expectation that production is increased in the next years. The net is also modular, which means broken solar cells can easily be replaced. Aesthetics are also taken into account, as the solar cells can be printed in various colours.

In addition, the team believes that since the net covers the motorway, nitrogen from exhaustion fumes is also trapped inside. This enriches the soil and allows trees to grow, providing a natural sound barrier.

The project has not yet been tried, and the team is looking for partners.

Images via DDW