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Keeping cool: Enhanced optical reflection and heat dissipation in silver ants

Science  18 Jun 2015:

DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3564

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Abstract

Saharan silver ants, Cataglyphis bombycina, forage under extreme temperature conditions in the African desert. We show that the ants’ conspicuous silvery appearance is created by a dense array of uniquely shaped triangular hairs with two thermoregulatory effects. They enhance not only the reflectivity of the ant’s body surface in the visible and near-infrared range of the spectrum, where solar radiation culminates, but also the emissivity of the ant in the mid-infrared. The latter effect enables the animals to efficiently dissipate heat back to the surroundings via blackbody radiation under full daylight conditions. This biological solution for a thermoregulatory problem may lead to the development of biomimetic coatings for passive radiative cooling of objects.

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