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Opt Express. 2011 Nov 21;19(24):24061-6. doi: 10.1364/OE.19.024061.

Refractive index and dispersion of butterfly chitin and bird keratin measured by polarizing interference microscopy.

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Computational Physics, Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, NL-9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands.


Using Jamin-Lebedeff interference microscopy, we measured the wavelength dependence of the refractive index of butterfly wing scales and bird feathers. The refractive index values of the glass scales of the butterfly Graphium sarpedon are, at wavelengths 400, 500 and 600 nm, 1.572, 1.552 and 1.541, and those of the feather barbules of the white goose Anas anas domestica are 1.569, 1.556 and 1.548, respectively. The dispersion spectra of the chitin in the butterfly scales and the keratin in the bird barbules are well described by the Cauchy equation n(λ) = A + B/λ(2), with A = 1.517 and B = 8.80·10(3) nm(2) for the butterfly chitin and A = 1.532 and B = 5.89·10(3) nm(2) for the bird keratin.

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