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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2008 Sep;78(3 Pt 1):031922. Epub 2008 Sep 25.

Composite organic-inorganic butterfly scales: production of photonic structures with atomic layer deposition.

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  • 1School of Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0245, USA.


Recent advances in the photonics and optics industries have produced great demand for ever more sophisticated optical devices, such as photonic crystals. However, photonic crystals are notoriously difficult to manufacture. Increasingly, therefore, researchers have turned towards naturally occurring photonic structures for inspiration and a wide variety of elaborate techniques have been attempted to copy and harness biological processes to manufacture artificial photonic structures. Here, we describe a simple, direct process for producing an artificial photonic device by using a naturally occurring structure from the wings of the butterfly Papilio blumei as a template and low-temperature atomic layer deposition of TiO2 to create a faithful cast of the structure. The optical properties of the organic-inorganic diffraction structures produced are assessed by normal-incidence specular reflectance and found to be well described by multilayer computation method using a two-dimensional photonic crystal model. Depending on the structural integrity of the initially sealed scale, it was found possible not only to replicate the outer but also the inner and more complex surfaces of the structure, each resulting in distinct multicolor optical behavior as revealed by experimental and theoretical data. In this paper, we also explore tailoring the process to design composite skeleton architectures with desired optical properties and integrated multifunctional (mechanical, thermal, optical, fluidic) properties.

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