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Nat Photonics. 2012 Nov;6(11):759-763.

Non-polarizing broadband multilayer reflectors in fish.

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School of Biological Sciences, Woodland Road, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1UG. ; Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences, University of Bristol, Queen's Building, University Walk, Bristol BS8 1TR.


Dielectric multilayer reflectors that are non-polarizing are an important class of optical device and have numerous applications within optical fibres [1], dielectric waveguides [2] and LEDs [3]. Here we report analyses of a biological non-polarizing optical mechanism found in the broadband guanine-cytoplasm "silver" multilayer reflectors of three species of fish. Present in the fish stratum argenteum are two populations of birefringent guanine crystal, each with their optic axes either parallel to the long axis of the crystal or perpendicular to the plane of the crystal. This arrangement neutralizes the polarization of reflection due the different interfacial Brewster's angles of each population. The fish reflective mechanism is distinct from existing non-polarizing mirror designs [4, 5, 6, 7] with the important feature that there is no refractive index contrast between the low index layers in the reflector and the external environment. It is a mechanism that could be readily manufactured and exploited in synthetic optical devices.

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