Photonic structures in biology

  title={Photonic structures in biology},
  author={Peter Vukusic and J. Roy Sambles},
Millions of years before we began to manipulate the flow of light using synthetic structures, biological systems were using nanometre-scale architectures to produce striking optical effects. An astonishing variety of natural photonic structures exists: a species of Brittlestar uses photonic elements composed of calcite to collect light, Morpho butterflies use multiple layers of cuticle and air to produce their striking blue colour and some insects use arrays of elements, known as nipple arrays… 

Photonic structures in biology

For only a few decades we are able to create synthetic photonic crystals. Nature however, has produced nanometer-scale structures that manipulate light for over millions of years. A well known

Biotemplating routes to three-dimensional photonic crystals

The strikingly colorful world of insects is in large part the result of light interacting with periodically organized biopolymeric structures incorporated into wings, hairs and exoskeletons. Such

Photonic Structures in Biology: A Possible Blueprint for Nanotechnology

This review will discuss important aspects of the design, formation and evolution of the structures embedded in beetle exoskeletons that are responsible for their striking colouration, and focus on the purpose of structural colours for camouflaging, mimicry and signalling.

Strong modification of density of optical states in biotemplated photonic crystals

Nature has developed sophisticated methods to create structure-based colors as a way to address the need of a wide variety of organisms. This pallet of available structures presents a unique

Biological growth and synthetic fabrication of structurally colored materials

This review compares the processes that enable the formation of biological photonic structures with the procedures employed by scientists and engineers to fabricate biologically inspired photonic materials to identify biological strategies which, if incorporated into the human palette of fabrication approaches, could significantly advance the authors' abilities to control material structure in three dimensions across all relevant length scales.

Photonic crystal micro- and nanostructures in iridescent butterfly wings

Photonic crystals are periodic dielectric composite structures that affect the propagation of light. The existence of complex photonic crystals structures in Nature has boosted research in the field

Complex photonic structures in nature: from order to disorder

Structural colours arise from the interaction of visible light with nano-structured materials. The occurrence of such structures in nature has been known for over a century, but it is only in the

Photonic effects in natural nanostructures on Morpho cypris and Greta oto butterfly wings

The experimental and theoretical approaches of the optical response visible region were studied to understand the underlying mechanism behind the light–matter interaction on the wings of these Colombian butterflies, and the results can guide the design of novel devices that use iridescence as angular filters or even for cosmetic purposes.

Photonic Structures for Coloration in the Biological World

In the biological world the living organisms have exploited photonic structures to produce striking structural coloration since the Cambrian period. In recent years, structural colors and associated



Shedding light on butterfly wings

Surveys of the natural world reveal an extensive array of optical effects in a broad range of animal and insect species. While the aesthete may simply take delight in such phenomena, students of

Photonic engineering. Aphrodite's iridescence.

The most intense colours displayed in nature result from either multilayer reflectors or linear diffraction gratings, and the spectacular iridescence of a spine from the sea mouse Aphrodita sp.

New Ways to Guide Light

The regular microstructure of these fibers enables new ways of guiding light, with many possible applications, and recent progress toward overcoming limitations with microstructured or "photonic crystal" fibers is reviewed.

Quantified interference and diffraction in single Morpho butterfly scales

Brilliant iridescent colouring in male butterflies enables long–range conspecific communication and it has long been accepted that microstructures, rather than pigments, are responsible for this

Solar–absorber antireflector on the eye of an Eocene fly (45 Ma)

Antireflection structures on eyes potentially increase visual efficiency through increased photon capture for a given stimulus condition. We report an unusual surface grating on the compound eyes of

Antireflective Nanoprotuberance Array in the Transparent Wing of a Hawkmoth, Cephonodes hylas

It is demonstrated that the nanocomposite in the Cephopnodes wing decreases the light reflectance by the wing into 29-48% in the broad wavelength range, which shows by the color difference between the wings, coated by gold, with and without protuberances.

Morpho butterflies wings color modeled with lamellar grating theory.

An approach for converting reflection coefficients of any structure into colors, taking into account human color perception, is described, applied to the study of the colors reflected by Morpho rhetenor butterflies wings.

Insect communication: Polarized light as a butterfly mating signal

It is shown that polarized light is used in mate recognition by Heliconius butterflies, a genus that is known to rely on visual cues in sexual selection and speciation and may have adaptive value in dense forest, where illumination varies greatly in spectrum and intensity.

Aphrodite's iridescence

The spectacular iridescence of a spine from the sea mouse Aphrodita sp.


1. A review is given of the optical and architectural analogies between cholesteric liquid crystals and certain insect cuticles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Earlier observations on the optical