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Opt Express. 1999 Aug 16;5(4):87-92.

Effects of a butterfly scale microstructure on the iridescent color observed at different angles.


Multilayer thin-film structures in butterfly wing scales produce a colorful iridescence from reflected sunlight. Because of optical phenomena, changes in the angle of incidence of light and the viewing angle of an observer result in shifts in the color of butterfly wings. Colors ranging from green to purple, which are due to nonplanar specular reflection, can be observed on Papilio blumei iridescent scales. This refers to a phenomenon in which the curved surface patterns in the thin-film structure cause the specular component of the reflected light to be directed at various angles while affecting the spectral reflectivity at the same time by changing the optical path length through the structure. We determined the spectral reflectivities of P. blumei iridescent scales numerically by using models of a butterfly scale microstructure and experimentally by using a microscale-reflectance spectrometer. The numerical models accurately predict the shifts in spectral reflectivity observed experimentally.

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