The eyeballs of moths are the inspiration for a new high-tech coating that reduces glare and repels water.

In an attempt to create a solution to the neighborhood problem of residential solar panels creating a blinding glare when being hit with sunlight, a team of chemists from University of California, Irvine turned toward the moth, which has a repeating pattern of cones etched into its eyeballs.

The team developed a flexible film that could be used as a coating for various products such a solar panels and electronic displays, the moth-inspired pattern enabled remarkable anti-glare properties. It turns out the material can also repel water very efficiently.

"We're excited about where this technology might lead and who could be interested in exploring the commercial opportunities that this new advancement presents," said Doug Crawford, a senior licensing officer at UC Irvine.

The film, as it turns out, was something of an accident. While the researchers were testing different ideas they noticed what appeared to be soot on their flexible film.

"We found that a very simple process and a tiny bit of gold can turn a transparent film black," said UC Irvine chemistry professor Robert Corn. The simple process Corn and his team stumbled across turned out to be the key to creating a glare-eliminating film.

The team's process involved etching a repeating pattern of cones modeled off moth eyeballs into non-stick surfaces such as Teflon at the nanoscale level. Once a thin layer of gold covering was applied over the cones, the shine from the gold was eliminated, as was any other reflecting light. To boot, the material also repels moisture.

Future applications for the material could be for anti-glare solar panels or cell phone screens, or even for military equipment, as troops can often risk enemy detection when sunshine bounces off weaponry.

The researchers report their development in the journals Nano Letters and ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.