Absence of red structural color in photonic glasses, bird feathers, and certain beetles

December 3, 2014

Copyright 2014 by the American Physical Society.

Colloidal glasses, bird feathers, and beetle scales can all show structural colors arising from short-ranged spatial correlations between scattering centers. Unlike the structural colors arising from Bragg diffraction in ordered materials like opals, the colors of these photonic glasses are independent of orientation, owing to their disordered, isotropic microstructures. However, there are few examples of photonic glasses with angle-independent red colors in nature, and colloidal glasses with particle sizes chosen to yield structural colors in the red show weak color saturation.

In a paper published in Physical Review E, Harvard PhD student Sofia Magkiriadou and colleagues in Prof. Vinothan Mannoharan's group show that the absence of angle-independent red color can be explained by the tendency of individual particles to backscatter light more strongly in the blue. They discuss how the backscattering resonances of individual particles arise from cavity-like modes and how they interact with the structural resonances to prevent red, and use the model to develop design rules for colloidal glasses with red, angle-independent structural colors.

(See S. Magkiriadou, J.-G. Park, Y.-S. Kim, and V.N. Manoharan, "Absence of red structural color in photonic glasses, bird feathers, and certain beetles," Phys. Rev. E 90, 062302 (3 Dec 2014). Physics synopsis is here.)