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Nat Nanotechnol. 2010 Jul;5(7):511-5. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2010.101. Epub 2010 May 30.

Mimicking the colourful wing scale structure of the Papilio blumei butterfly.

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Department of Physics, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK.


The brightest and most vivid colours in nature arise from the interaction of light with surfaces that exhibit periodic structure on the micro- and nanoscale. In the wings of butterflies, for example, a combination of multilayer interference, optical gratings, photonic crystals and other optical structures gives rise to complex colour mixing. Although the physics of structural colours is well understood, it remains a challenge to create artificial replicas of natural photonic structures. Here we use a combination of layer deposition techniques, including colloidal self-assembly, sputtering and atomic layer deposition, to fabricate photonic structures that mimic the colour mixing effect found on the wings of the Indonesian butterfly Papilio blumei. We also show that a conceptual variation to the natural structure leads to enhanced optical properties. Our approach offers improved efficiency, versatility and scalability compared with previous approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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