Bio-inspired photonics

Bio-inspired photonics or bio-inspired optical materials is a subcategory of bioinspiration. It includes artificial materials with optical properties springing inspiration from living organisms.[1][2] This differs from biophotonics which is the field of study on the development and application of optical techniques to observe biological systems. In living organisms, colours can originate from pigments and/or unique structural characteristics (structural coloration).[1][2]

Molecular biomimeticsEdit

Molecular biomimetics involves the design of optical materials based on specific molecules and/or macromolecules to induce coloration.[1] Pigment-inspired materials aiming for specific molecular light absorption have been developed as for example melanin-inspired films prepared by polymerization of melanin precursors such as dopamine and 5,6-dihydroxyindole to provoke color saturation.[3][4][5] Materials based on the multi-layer stacking of guanine molecular crystals found in living organisms (e.g. fish[6] and chameleons[7]) have been proposed as potential reflective coatings and solar reflectors. Protein-based optical materials, for instance self-assembling reflectin proteins found in cephalopods [8][9] and silk,[10] have incited interest in artificial materials for camouflage systems,[11] electronic paper (e-paper)[12] and biomedical applications.[13] Non-protein biological macromolecules such as DNA have also been utilized for bio-inspired optics.[14] The most abundant biopolymer on earth, cellulose, has been also utilized as a principal component for bio-optics.[15][1] Modification of wood or other cellulose sources can mitigate scattering and absorption of light leading to optically interesting materials such as transparent wood and paper.[16][17]

Bioinspired periodic/aperiodic structuresEdit

Structural color is a type of coloration that arises from the interaction of light with nano-sized structures.[18] This interaction is possible because these photonic structures are of the same size as the wavelength of light. Through a mechanism of constructive and destructive interference, certain colors get amplified, while others diminish.

Photonic structures are abundant in nature, existing in a wide range of organisms. Different organisms use different structures, each with a different morphology designed to obtain the desired effect. Examples of this are the photonic crystal underlying the bright colors in peacock feathers[19] or the tree-like structures responsible for the bright blue in some Morpho butterflies.[20]

An example of bio-inspired photonics using structures is the so-called moth eye. Moths have a structure of ordered cylinders in their eyes that do not produce color, but instead reduce reflectivity.[21] This concept has led to creation of antireflective coatings.[22]

Responsive materialsEdit


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