Muting Moths

SHHHH! I’m trying to SLEEP. 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science. 

City noise is a big issue. But not for moths! Their scaly wings literally have NOISE-CANCELING abilities – it keeps them from becoming bat food. Could MOTHS offer a solution for noise pollution?

Thomas Neil and team from University of Bristol in the UK think so. To test their sound absorbing abilities they covered an echoey, eight-millimeter aluminum disk with ACTUAL moth wings. Then they pointed a wide range of sounds from different directions toward the surface. A microphone measured the sound reflections. 

And? The wings absorbed almost NINETY-PERCENT of incoming sound. Typical sound absorbers are bulky or only work for a narrow range of sounds. But moth wings are extremely thin – even stropping sound from bouncing off a solid structure. Researchers hope to eventually replicate the results in a moth wing-inspired prototype. Like an ultra-slim sound-absorbing wallpaper!

For now… Hang some old blankets outside the window. Call it a Moth Motel! We’ll leave the light on for you.

Reference: Neil, T. R., Shen, Z., Robert, D., Drinkwater, B. W., & Holderied, M. W. (2022). Moth wings as sound absorber metasurface. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 478(2262).