Biomimetics of photonic nanostructures


Biomimetics is the extraction of good design from nature. One approach to optical biomimetics focuses on the use of conventional engineering methods to make direct analogues of the reflectors and anti-reflectors found in nature. However, recent collaborations between biologists, physicists, engineers, chemists and materials scientists have ventured beyond experiments that merely mimic what happens in nature, leading to a thriving new area of research involving biomimetics through cell culture. In this new approach, the nanoengineering efficiency of living cells is harnessed and natural organisms such as diatoms and viruses are used to make nanostructures that could have commercial applications.

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Figure 1: Natural and fabricated anti-reflective surfaces.
Figure 2: Replicating the iridescent cuticle of a beetle.
Figure 3: The iridescent wings of a Morpho butterfly.
Figure 4: The periodic structures found in the walls of some diatoms could have useful optical properties for applications.
Figure 5: Made-to-measure structures in cell walls.
Figure 6: The basic elements of cell engineering.


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This work was funded by the Royal Society (University Research Fellowship), the Australian Research Council, Framework 6 of the European Union, and RCUK (Basic Technology Grant).

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Parker, A., Townley, H. Biomimetics of photonic nanostructures. Nature Nanotech 2, 347–353 (2007).

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