Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nature’s designs inspire research into new light-based technologies

18.09.2014

Seashells and electromagnetic waves, spiders and the structure of color connect in optics and photonics studies

"Nature has developed, very cleverly, some lessons on how to create the features that we desire in optical design," said Joseph Shaw, director of the Optical Technology Center at Montana State University. "As we explore surfaces and structures at the nanoscale, we'll discover them."


Understanding how particle scatter (above) and minerals (top) affect water color in pools at Yellowstone National Park may provide important information for the development of alternative fuels. Phenomena of light in nature such as this were the topic of a conference at SPIE Optics + Photonics, with results published in the SPIE Digital Library. (Photographs by Joseph Shaw)

Some of those lessons were presented in San Diego in August during a conference called "The Nature of Light: Light in Nature" chaired by Shaw and Rongguang Liang of the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences. The conference was part of SPIE Optics + Photonics, sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

The conference is particularly relevant as the optics and photonics community prepares for the United Nations International Year of Light 2015, Shaw said. "Such lessons from nature not only remind us of how light-based technologies touch all of our lives and help solve challenges in energy, healthcare, communications, and other areas, but they also remind us to pause and appreciate the visual beauty found throughout nature."

Shaw, whose research as a professor in electrical and computer engineering involves developing optical sensors for applications ranging from imaging of clouds to laser-detection of fish, said that observing how nature solves problems is particularly helpful for optical designers and engineers working with very small structures.

Insect wings that absorb all of the visible light spectrum and iridescent shells, for example, each possess optical surfaces that might find design applications one day, perhaps as camouflage.

Some wings have antireflective cone-like structures of a few nanometers that absorb virtually the entire visible spectrum, a team from the University of Namur (Louis Dellieu, et al.) reported. In the grey cicada, absorption is a product of the distinctive shape of tiny surface cones.

Iridescence of the lining of mollusk shells was explored by a team from Colgate University (R. A. Metzler, et al.), who reported on the polarization effects of the lining, known as nacre, or mother of pearl. It consists of up to 30,000 layers of tiny calcium carbonate "bricks" -- just 0.5 microns, or a 200th of the diameter of a human hair -- held together by a "mortar" of organic chitin. Reflected light from the lining produces the shells familiar array of colors.

"We have the tools for nanoengineering and nanoexploration," Shaw said. "We can do reverse engineering of the structures."

Color of vivid blue pools, some as hot as 250 degrees Fahrenheit, at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana has only little to do with reflection of sky light, a paper by Shaw and others reported. The blue comes from the scatter of particles in the water. The deeper the water, the more dominant the scatter and the richer the blue. Red, orange, and yellow colors of other pools are driven by varieties of microbes on the rock surfaces under the water and related to the temperature of water in each pool.

Applications of these findings could include using a color imager to infer information about such pools and their resident microbe communities and what causes their presence. This could connect with NASA-funded research, because of the similarity of Yellowstone microbes with possible early forms of life on Earth and other planets. Ongoing Yellowstone research is even exploring how these microbes might inspire development of alternative fuels.

Optical labs looking for higher-efficiency solar cells or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) might one day use genetic algorithms to streamline their work. A team from Namur University of Namur (Alexandre Mayer, et al.), noting that thinking through a design question could mean millions or billions of options to check, demonstrated that a genetic algorithm can quickly make many small changes. A lab might need to explore only a few hundred options instead of millions. The genetic algorithm would work the way natural evolution does: scanning all the possibilities and quickly narrowing down the search.

Among other topics, presenters discussed:

Conference proceedings are now in publication, with papers going up in the SPIE Digital Library as soon as each is approved.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves more than 235,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.

Media Contact:
Amy Nelson
Public Relations Manager
amy@spie.org
Tel: +1 360 685 5478

Amy Nelson | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://spie.org/x110126.xml

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs
07.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies
20.10.2017 | Naval Research Laboratory

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>