Angle-independent structural color: from birds to materials

Vinothan Manoharan
Harvard University
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Duke University Schicano B | 4:30pm

Most colored materials owe their color to the absorption of light: certain wavelengths are absorbed and others transmitted. The color arises from the remaining wavelengths that are reflected or scattered back to the observer. In nature we often see a different type of coloration, known as structural color, which comes from interference or diffraction of light and not absorption: certain wavelengths are transmitted, while others constructively interfere and are reflected. Structural colors are common in birds and particularly in blue feathers, which consist of disordered arrays of pores that scatter light. I will discuss efforts to make synthetic systems that mimic the bird feathers -- that is, systems that show structural colors that are indistinguishable from traditional, absorption-based colors, both in their saturation and their angle independence. These systems might be used to make reflective color displays or long-lasting paints.