Photonic structures in nature

Diverse photonic nanostructures in nature feature a wealth of optical properties.

Without light, nothing would work in the biological world as most plants and animals - including us humans - use light as a primary information carrier for communication. The ability to control light has turned into an essential function for most animals and plants.

Especially insects have evolved a diversity of color signals that interact with incident light and allow them to create a dynamic form of information. Two main classes of animal coloration are distinguished: pigmentary coloration, due to the wavelength-selective light absorption by chemical dyes, and structural coloration, due to the interaction of incident light with ordered, quasi-ordered or disordered nanostructures causing interference of incident light.

Function of optical nanostructures. In order to fully understand the optical properties of animals and flowers and relate them to their ultrastructural anatomy a complete spectroscopic characterization is required. Such investigation allows disentangling the contribution of the different components of the tissue that contribute to the optical response.  FDTD modelling goes hand-in-hand with the experiments.

Development of nanostructures. Arthropod cuticle and plant cellulose have lent themselves to an astounding variety of surface structures. We investigate the origin and development of these structures with a variety of techniques and systems.

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