APPLIED OPTICS

A stretch to change color

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Science  24 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6233, pp. 409
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6233.409-a

The structured surface of a leaf beetle carapace diffracts light to produce spectacular colors

PHOTO: © MAXAL TAMOR/ALAMY

The reflection of white light from structured surfaces often results in a spectacular display of color as the white light is split into its different wavelengths through diffraction. Structure gives rise to the intense iridescent colors that distinguish some members of the animal kingdom, such as beetles and butterflies. Human-made materials, such as DVD or CD surfaces, also diffract light into a rainbow. Zhu et al. combine surface structure with membrane flexibility to show that they can locally select the color of reflected light, as they stretch the membrane and change the periodicity of the structure. This technique could be used in a range of applications, including camouflage coatings, optical sensing and steering, and displays.

Optica 2, 255 (2015).

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