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The Moth Wing to Sound Absorbing Acoustic Panels

A Team D3 Client Success Story Focusing on a Creative Solution to Office Space Acoustics

The Customer’s Challenge

The Biomimicry Alliance wanted to find an alternative method for creating sound absorption materials for application in open office work environments. They posed the question, “How would nature absorb sound?” Through investigation, they discovered the “Cabbage Tree Emperor moth” (Bunaea alcinoe) a moth species belonging to the family Saturniidae, native to Southern Africa. This unique moth can avoid its most notorious predator, a bat, and its “sonar” like ability to track its prey. The wings are covered by overlapping scales that are less than (0.0098 inches) long and have a peculiar porous structure. This structure absorbs the echolocation sound of their predators, the bats, and thus helps them to camouflage themselves acoustically. But could they emulate the acoustical features of the moth’s wings and apply it to the design of acoustic panels?

The Project Goals

Our goal for this project was to find creation and analysis tools that would allow them to effectively study, design, analyze and create a working model for real-world testing for their proposed acoustic panels. The practical goal was simply to reduce sound bounce that occurs in an open office environment thus making it a less noisy work atmosphere.

The Solution

Under a microscope on a nanostructure level, researchers discovered that the Cabbage Tree Emperor moth’s wings have scales and other structural forms that aid in the absorption of sound. Together, the Biomimicry Alliance and MG AEC used the acquired data and employed the use of Autodesk Dynamo, a computational design software tool, to model the nanostructure of the moth wing. The key to using Dynamo, was not only its parametric design capability using logic but the ability to analyze a digital model without creating a physical prototype. MG AEC created an acoustic panel based off the moth wing, and with the use of another analytic plugin program, MG AEC was able to quickly test the acoustic properties of the digital prototype prior to 3D printing a physical model.

The Business Outcome

The Cabbage Tree Emperor Moth wing panel was then tested in Autodesk Dynamo. The 3D model was generated out of a typical gypsum material as baseline. But even with this hard material, 33% of all sound rays were absorbed by the panels, meaning the moth wing acoustic structure applied to the panel design did aid in sound absorption. The Biomimicry Alliance and MG AEC were satisfied with the results and moved forward with a patent. Without knowing the final results of the testing that is ongoing, it is expected that with the application of a softer material on production panels, that the sound absorption will exceed the 33% reduction noted during the initial testing.


As of now, 3D models of the product have been test printed by way of a 3D printer, and the printed panel is currently being tested in an acoustics lab to further refine the design and the resulting finished product. “Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design 
challenges.” Biomimicry designs focus on function insomuch as (they “work like” or simulate nature). By observation of nature, and in this case, The Cabbage Tree Emperor Moth, The Biomimicry Alliance and MG AEC were able to apply the biomimicry lesson learned to industrialized construction.

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