If you wear glasses, and they have been created recently, you are reading this article by looking through a tiny, transparent layer of nanomaterial. Anti-reflective coatings based on nanomaterials that reduce the amount of reflected light are used in most optical devices, including glasses, photo lenses, TV screens, solar cells and LED lights.

They could get better in the future. Some of the most efficient ARCs are made by mother nature and are found in the eyes of insects, like moths. The eyes of moths are covered with a layer of tiny bumps which are smaller than the wavelength of incoming light. This natural coating eliminates glare, hiding the moths from predators and improving their nocturnal vision. Some types of ARCs actually mimic the moth's eye.

These coatings are effective, but currently they are relatively expensive and difficult to customize. A group at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, coordinated by Joachim P. Spatz, has developed a new way to produce moth eye-like coatings and they say the resulting coatings are comparable in cost to classic ARCs and can be easily customized.

The eyes of nocturnal insects give researchers new ideas for anti-glare coatings. Credit: Max Planck Institute

The manufacturing process developed at the Max Planck Institute, which uses gold nanoparticles,  produces regular, tiny bumps similar to that found in the moths' eyes. Structural parameters such as period, height and shape of these structures can be easily controlled, say the German group. Researchers have formed a spin-off team to exploit and commercialize their solution.