The Morpho butterfly, peacock feather, and beetle shells exert a fascination for scientists these days. What they have in common is iridescence and that optical property is being pursued with single-minded passion. A research team from Sheffield University in the UK is the latest to come up with a prototype film which exploits the nanostructures making iridescent colour possible. From the May 18, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,
Scientists from the University of Sheffield have developed pigment-free, intensely coloured polymer materials, which could provide new, anti-counterfeit devices on passports or banknotes due to their difficulty to copy (“Continuously tuneable optical filters from self-assembled block copolymer blends”).
The polymers do not use pigments but instead exhibit intense colour due to their structure, similar to the way nature creates colour for beetle shells and butterfly wings.
Dr Andrew Parnell, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Our aim was to mimic the wonderful and funky coloured patterns found in nature, such as Peacock feathers. We now have a painter’s palette of colours that we can choose from using just two polymers to do this. We think that these materials have huge potential to be used commercially.”
Here’s a video of the work (there’s no explanation of what you’re seeing; the silence is total),
A minute and half of shiny stuff, I love the zen quality. Although I don’t really understand it, I do enjoy not knowing, just seeing.
There are two teams in Canada working along the same lines, Opalux (a spin-off company from the University of Toronto) about which I posted on Jan. 21, 2011 and Nanotech Security Corporation (a spin-off company from Simon Fraser University) about which I posted on Jan. 17, 2011. Both companies are also working to create films useful in anti-counterfeiting strategies.