Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Refracted brilliance: How nature’s structures produce colour

By Shane Huntington.

Physicist Professor Ullrich Steiner explains how nature generates vibrant colors, as seen in many butterflies and beetles, through the structure of materials, and how these properties can be usefully reproduced.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

SHANE HUNTINGTON
I'm Dr Shane Huntington, thanks for joining us. If we look at evolution on earth over the last half a billion years, it is hard to find an animal or plant species that has not adapted to the use of light in some way. Whether we are talking about high altitudes and the visual acuity of the eagle, or the production of light by the strangest of creatures from the oceans deep, some form of vision or camouflage is important to survival. Of course, many animal and plant species go a step further and make use of different colours to provide advantage. The flower, with its brilliant colours, attracts the bees crucial to pollination and the butterfly wing provides camouflage against predators. But colour is not limited to just choosing the right pigment. Any of us who have held a prism up to the sunlight know that the prism, which itself is free of colour, is nevertheless capable of producing colour. A DVD or Blu-ray disc held up to the light will yield a similar effect. Physics tells us that there are many ways to produce colour and if we look closely enough we will find all of those methods being utilised in nature. So how is colour produced in some of these more exotic...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.