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Micron. 2007;38(2):97-103. Epub 2006 Jul 28.

Colour characterization of a Morpho butterfly wing-scale using a high accuracy nonstandard finite-difference time-domain method.

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  • 1Institute of Applied Physics, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8573, Japan.


In certain species of moths and butterflies iridescent colours arise from subwavelength diffractive structures. The optical properties of such a structure depend strongly on wavelength, incidence angle and state of polarization of illuminating radiation and on the viewing angle. Such structures can be analyzed only by solving Maxwell's equations, but since analytical solutions exist for only a few simple, highly symmetric structures numerical methods must be employed. We investigated the optical properties of butterfly wings in two dimensions by simulating a scale structure using a high accuracy version of nonstandard finite-difference time-domain algorithm. The simulated structure is a computer-generated model of a certain quasi-periodic arrangement of tree-like structures observed in the transmission electron micrograph (TEM) image of a transverse cross-section of a single scale from Morpho butterfly wings. We assumed that the structure is made of a slightly lossy dielectric material. We checked the accuracy and validity of our approach, by computing scattered field intensities due to an infinite cylinder and compared the results with analytical calculations using Mie theory. Next we deduced the wavelength dependence of a real refractive index and an absorption coefficient for the ground scales on the wings of Morpho sulkowskyi butterfly by computing the reflectivity and transmissivity spectrum of a scale at normal incidence, and comparing with experimental measurements. Finally, we calculated the tristimulus values and corresponding colour coordinates for various viewing directions from the scale's far-field reflectivity and transmissivity spectra to characterize its colour rendering abilities.

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