A humble marine worm with a talent for optical engineering
may hold the clue to new communication technologies.
Little is known about the sea mouse but its spines are
exciting physicists. Researchers in the UK and Australia
said the technical wizardry of the lowly sea mouse could
be copied to develop hi-tech photonic systems.
Photonic engineering: Aphrodite's iridescence
ANDREW R. PARKER, ROSS C. MCPHEDRAN,
DAVID R. MCKENZIE, LINDSAY C. BOTTEN,
NICOLAE-ALEXANDRU P. NICOROVICI
Nature, 409, 36-37 (2001)
The most intense colours displayed in nature result from
either multilayer reflectors or linear diffraction gratings.
Here we investigate the spectacular iridescence of a spine
(notoseta) from the sea mouse Aphrodita sp. (Polychaeta:
Aphroditidae). The spine normally appears to be deep red in
colour, but when light is incident perpendicular to the axis of
the spine, different colours are seen as stripes running parallel
to the axis of the spine; over a range of smaller incident angles,
the complete visible spectrum is reflected with a reflectivity of
100% to the human eye. The simple structure responsible for
this effect is a remarkable example of photonic engineering
by a living organism.
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