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Bio-inspired Photonics



In nature structural colours are produced by constructive interference of light scattered from periodically organised interfaces within nanostructured materials. These brilliant iridescent colourations are frequently used in nature and obtained in ambient conditions with abundant materials. A common strategy adopted by plants to achieve “structural colours” consists in assembling cellulose micro-fibrils in chiral multilayer structures. Similarly, chitin fibrils assemble in the exoskeleton of beetles. Such chiral structure provides a strong and intense colour-selective reflection of circularly polarised light.In order to elucidate the design principles that underlie the evolution of such structures in nature, in ths ERC project weto study the assembly and optical response of both natural and bio-mimetic materials using the same materials use by nature.  Understanding the assembly of natural materials will pave the way to the production of low cost, biodegradable photonic materials. Steered self-assembly of such materials could replace traditional, potentially hazardous colorants used industrially for food, cosmetics, art, textiles and as security labelling. Finally, biopolymer-based photonic structures could be used as templates for the fabrication of new plasmonic and optical metamaterials with a biological motif.