Structural Color

Authors

Pete Vukusic School of Physics, Exeter University

Publication Date

4/13/04

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Abstract

Modern technology is increasingly interested in attaining the ability to carefully mold and control the flow of light. The interest in this is underpinned by the drive toward the use of all-optical signals, rather than electrical ones, for a variety of purposes. Among the more interesting and potentially revolutionary are those associated with high-bandwidth communication and with the miniaturization of digital processing. There is currently a huge research investment dedicated to reaching goals in these areas. As a result, technologists have discovered something nature has been exploiting for a very long time, namely, that the careful design of the structural shape and form of a material will allow it to manipulate the way specific colors propagate within or along it. In this way, the issue of structural color has arisen in physics and engineering, and the subject is predicted to affect our future lives in a fundamental way. As an introduction to the associated optics, this article will principally describe the physical mechanisms associated with structural color, presenting natural examples that offer inspiration and design protocols to current technologists.