Wing scales diffract and scatter light: Morpho butterflies
Wings of Morpho butterflies create color by diffracting and scattering light.
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Human-made systems of structurally-produced color are now being designed which do not require the toxic heavy-metals or manufacturing methods common to many pigments and dyes (e.g., for iridescent fabrics and cosmetics), and to create high-performance electronic color displays by actively varying the interspatial distances of light-interacting layers (e.g., for cell phones), which can change colors rapidly, remain vibrant under low-light conditions, and require less energy than other electronic display methods.
"Using a focused-laser technique, we investigated the absolute reflectivity and transmissivity associated with the single-scale microstructures of two species of Morpho butterfly and the mechanisms behind their remarkable wide-angle visibility. Measurements indicate that certain Morpho microstructures reflect up to 75% of the incident blue light over an angle range of greater than 100 degree in one plane and 15 degree in the other.
"We show that incorporation of a second layer of more transparent scales, above a layer of highly iridescent scales, leads to very strong diffraction, and we suggest this effect acts to increase further the angle range over which incident light is reflected.
"Measurements using index-matching techniques yield the complex refractive index of the cuticle material comprising the single-scale microstructure to be n=(1.56 plus or minus 0.01) + (0.06 plus or minus 0.01)i. This figure is required for theoretical modelling of such microstructure systems." (Vukusic et al. 1999:1403)
Morpho butterfly wings have tiny scales covered with microscopic ridges, cross ribs, and other structures. These play with light waves to create brilliant blues and speckles. The structure, instead of a chemical, creates the color. Artist: Emily Harrington. Copyright: All rights reserved. See gallery for details.
Morpho rhetenor Cramer 1775
IUCN Red List Status: Unknown
Some organism data provided by: LepIndex: The Global Lepidoptera Names Index
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist
Application Ideas: Paints for cars, buildings, or other industrial applications; fabrics; electronic display screens; cosmetics.
Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Textiles, buildings, manufacturing, transportation, health and beautyMorphotex structural colored fibers - Structural colored fibers
mirasol™ display technology - electronic display screen
ChromaFlair Color-Shifting Paints - Color-shifing paint
Butterfly wing scale photonics - Anti-counterfeiting, Advanced nanophotonics
Nano-Optic Technology for Enhanced Security (NOtES) - Anti-counterfeiting technology
Dr. Peter Vukusic, Roy Sambles
University of Exeter