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Nano Lett. 2015 Jun 10;15(6):3735-42. doi: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b00201. Epub 2015 May 14.

Structural Diversity of Arthropod Biophotonic Nanostructures Spans Amphiphilic Phase-Space.

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†Division of Physics and Applied Physics, School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, 21 Nanyang Link, 637371, Singapore.
‡Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, United Kingdom.
§CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia.
∥Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois 60439, United States.


Many organisms, especially arthropods, produce vivid interference colors using diverse mesoscopic (100-350 nm) integumentary biophotonic nanostructures that are increasingly being investigated for technological applications. Despite a century of interest, precise structural knowledge of many biophotonic nanostructures and the mechanisms controlling their development remain tentative, when such knowledge can open novel biomimetic routes to facilely self-assemble tunable, multifunctional materials. Here, we use synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering and electron microscopy to characterize the photonic nanostructure of 140 integumentary scales and setae from ∼127 species of terrestrial arthropods in 85 genera from 5 orders. We report a rich nanostructural diversity, including triply periodic bicontinuous networks, close-packed spheres, inverse columnar, perforated lamellar, and disordered spongelike morphologies, commonly observed as stable phases of amphiphilic surfactants, block copolymer, and lyotropic lipid-water systems. Diverse arthropod lineages appear to have independently evolved to utilize the self-assembly of infolding lipid-bilayer membranes to develop biophotonic nanostructures that span the phase-space of amphiphilic morphologies, but at optical length scales.


Biophotonic nanostructures; biomimetics; iridescence; membrane-folding; self-assembly; structural colors

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