Brilliant Whiteness in Ultrathin Beetle Scales

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Science  19 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5810, pp. 348
DOI: 10.1126/science.1134666

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The colored appearances of animals are controlled by pigmentation, highly periodic ultrastructure, or a combination of both. Whiteness, however, is less common and is generated by neither of these, because it requires scattering processes appropriate for all visible wavelengths. We report whiteness resulting from a three-dimensional photonic solid in the scales of Cyphochilus spp. beetles. Their scales are characterized by their exceptional whiteness, their perceived brightness, and their optical brilliance, but they are only 5 micrometers thick. This thickness is at least two orders of magnitude thinner than common synthetic systems designed for equivalent-quality whiteness.

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