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.
Public Relations Manager
Tel: +1 360 685 5478
Amy Nelson | Eurek Alert!
Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
How to color a lizard: From biology to mathematics
13.04.2017 | Université de Genève
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy