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What scientists know about jewel beetle shimmer
Date:7/23/2009

hem from different angles.

The beetle's structure also forms helices similar to a cholesteric liquid crystal in that its straight cells sit on or are used to form the curved structure of its external skeleton. Research shows that when the pitch of the helix of cholesteric liquid crystals is close to the wavelength of visible light, they reflect light with specific wavelengths, leading to brilliant metallic colors.

"It's stunning how similar the two things are," said Srinivasarao.

Miniature optical devices and photonics such as those envisioned for microlasers and implantable medical sensors could benefit from the finding. Scientists already are studying ways to commercialize and apply materials that have properties similar to jewel beetles.

In one case, researchers in New Zealand are studying beetles to produce a thin, solid mineral, magnesium oxide, which can be ground into flakes and potentially used as a currency security measure.

Car companies could use the materials to paint automobiles that change color depending on a person's angle of view. More uses could include decorative paints and use on any surface requiring light reflection without light absorption.

Srinivasarao says he doesn't completely understand all the optical properties and behavior of light as it interacts with the beetle's external skeleton. He says a lot more work needs to be done, but it is something he and his team are pursuing.


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Contact: Bobbie Mixon
bmixon@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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