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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry


Professor of Chemistry and Bio-materials

Photonic structures in Nature and Bio-mimetic Materials

Research Interests

Photonic structures in nature

Colour in nature is everywhere: animals and plants develop structures on sub-micrometer scale to manipulate light and to obtain brilliant and iridescent colours. This kind of colouration, named structural since it is not obtained using pigmentation, results from various mechanisms, including multilayered materials, crystalline inclusions and surface diffraction gratings. Pollia condensata fruits are one of the most striking examples of  strong iridescent colouration in plants. The colour is caused by Bragg-reflection of helicoidally stacked cellulose microfibrils, which form multilayers in the cell walls of the epicarp. The bright blue colour of this fruit is more intense than that of many previously described biological materials. Uniquely in nature, the reflected colour differs from cell to cell, as the layer thicknesses in the multilayer stack vary, giving the fruit a striking pixelated or ’pointillist’ appearance.

PNAS 109, 15712–15715, (2012)

Another striking example is the white of the Cyphochilus beetle which is native to South-East Asia, is whiter than paper, thanks to ultra-thin scales which cover its body. A new investigation of the optical properties of these scales has shown that they are able to scatter light more efficiently than any other biological tissue known, which is how they are able to achieve such a bright whiteness.

Scientific Reports 4, 6075 doi:10.1038/srep06075 (2014)


  1. BBSRC David Phillips fellowship
  2. Next Generation fellowship
  3. Isaac Newton Trust

Watch Professor Vignolini discuss her research

Take a tour of the Vignolini lab

Selected Publications

[1] Pointillist structural colour in Pollia fruit

S. Vignolini, P. J. Rudall, A. V. Rowland, A. Reed, E. Moyroud, R. B. Faden, J. J. Baumberg, B. J. Glover, U. Steiner; PNAS 109, 15712–15715, (2012). 

[2] Controlled bio-inspired self-assembly of cellulose-based chiral reflectors 

A. G. Dumanli, G. Kamita, J. Landman, H. van der Kooij, B. J. Glover, J. J. Baumberg, U Steiner, S. Vignolini;  Adv. Opt. Mat. DOI: 10.1002/adom.201400112  (2014)

[3]Bright-White Beetle scales Optimise Multiple Scattering of Light

M. Burresi, L. Cortese, L. Pattelli, M. Kolle, P.Vukusic, D. Wiersma, U. Steiner, and S.Vignolini; Scientific Reports 4, 6075 doi:10.1038/srep06075 (2014)



Angle-resolved optical spectroscopy of photonic cellulose nanocrystal films reveals the influence of additives on the mechanism of kinetic arrest
TG Parton, RM Parker, S Osbild, S Vignolini, B Frka-Petesic
– Soft matter
Living jewels: iterative evolution of iridescent blue leaves from helicoidal cell walls.
CR Lundquist, PJ Rudall, RS Sukri, M Conejero, A Smith, M Lopez-Garcia, S Vignolini, F Metali, HM Whitney
– Ann Bot
Influence of structural colour on the photoprotective mechanism in the gametophyte phase of the red alga Chondrus crispus.
AG Fleitas, S Sardar, MM Arnould-Pétré, M Murace, S Vignolini, J Brodie, G Lanzani, C D'Andrea
– J R Soc Interface
Inkjet Printed Photonic Cellulose Nanocrystal Patterns
CA Williams, RM Parker, A Kyriacou, M Murace, S Vignolini
– Advanced materials (Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
Structural Color from Cellulose Nanocrystals or Chitin Nanocrystals: Self-Assembly, Optics and Applications
B Frka-Petesic, TG Parton, C Honorato-Rios, A Narkevicius, K Ballu, Q Shen, Z Lu, Y Ogawa, J Haataja, B Droguet, RM Parker, S Vignolini
– Chemical Reviews
Light in correlated disordered media
K Vynck, R Pierrat, R Carminati, LS Froufe-Pérez, F Scheffold, R Sapienza, S Vignolini, JJ Sáenz
– Reviews of Modern Physics
Light management by algal aggregates in living photosynthetic hydrogels
ST Chua, A Smith, S Murthy, M Murace, H Yang, M Kühl, P Cicuta, A Smith, D Wangpraseurt, S Vignolini
Topological invariance in whiteness optimisation.
JS Haataja, G Jacucci, TG Parton, L Schertel, S Vignolini
– Communications physics
Liquid Crystal-Templated Porous Microparticles via Photopolymerization of Temperature-Induced Droplets in a Binary Liquid Mixture
M Patel, A Alvarez-Fernandez, MJ Fornerod, ANP Radhakrishnan, A Taylor, S Ten Chua, S Vignolini, B Schmidt-Hansberg, A Iles, S Guldin
– ACS Omega
Bio-inspired Photonic Materials from Cellulose: Fabrication, Optical Analysis and Applications
RM Parker, TG Parton, CLC Chan, MM Bay, B Frka-Petesic, S Vignolini
– Accounts of Materials Research
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Research Group

Research Interest Groups

Telephone number

01223 761490 (shared)

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