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WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol
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Structural colors: from natural to artificial systems

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Structural coloration has attracted great interest from scientists and engineers in recent years, owing to fascination with various brilliant examples displayed in nature as well as to promising applications of bio‐inspired functional photonic structures and materials. Much research has been done to reveal and emulate the physical mechanisms that underlie the structural colors found in nature. In this article, we review the fundamental physics of many natural structural colors displayed by living organisms as well as their bio‐inspired artificial counterparts, with emphasis on their connections, tunability strategies, and proposed applications, which aim to maximize the technological benefits one could derive from these photonic nanostructures. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2016, 8:758–775. doi: 10.1002/wnan.1396

(a) Two‐beam interference in a single thin film. (b) Interference in multilayers (neglecting multiple reflections). (c) Schematics of 1D, 2D, and 3D photonic crystals. (d) Band dispersion diagram of a 1D photonic crystal.
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(a) Tunability of a photonic display pixel as a function of applied electric potential difference. (b) Generation of high‐resolution multiple structural color patterns using M‐Ink. (c) Multicolor photochromic behavior of the porous gel. Photographs and reflection spectra of the porous poly(NIPA‐co‐AAB) gel in water at 19, 21, and 24°C before UV irradiation and after the equilibrium degree of swelling had been reached in response to the UV irradiation.
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(a) Side‐view SEM image (bottom panel) of a film spin‐coated 226 and 271 nm polystyrene spheres, and different structural colors (top panel) produced by different ratios of them. (b) Images of the structural colors produced by different sizes of polystyrene spheres, and their reflectance spectra (with (red line) and without a water glue added). Scale bars: 5 µm. (c) SEM and optical microscope images of a non‐iridescent structure and its corresponding structural color.
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Schematics of various methods for close‐packed colloidal crystal formation: (a) natural sedimentation; (b) vertical deposition; (c) lifting substrate; (d) horizontal deposition.
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(a) Four‐layer mesoporous Bragg stack in air and in ethanol observed from different viewing angles. (b) SEM image of five alternating regions of TiO2 and SiO2 nanoparticles and different structural colors of the films at normal incidence. Different colors of the Bragg stacks were obtained by varying the number of deposited bilayers. (c) Bright‐field TEM micrograph of cryomicrotomed PSb‐PI block copolymer showing 1D periodic lamellar morphology.
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(a) Optical microscope images of butterfly wing scales coated with different thickness of alumina and an SEM image of the alumina replicas of the butterfly wing scales after the butterfly template was completely removed. (b) SIM images of Morpho‐butterfly‐scale quasi‐structure fabricated by FIB‐CVD and optical microscope images of the quasi‐structure observed with a 5–45° incidence angle of white light.
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(a) Reversible color change in the skin of a male panther chameleon from relaxed to excited state. (b) TEM images of the lattice of guanine nanocrystals in S‐iridophores from the same individual in a relaxed (left panel) and excited (excited panel) state. Scale bar, 200 nm. (c) Reflectivity of a chameleon skin sample with white skin osmolarity from 236 to 1416 mOsm. (d) Image of a light‐adapted neon tetra fish with schematic outlines of the transversal (red) and longitudinal (green) sections of the stripe. (e) Cryo‐SEM images of a guanophore located in the lateral stripe of the neon tetra, in a section transversal to the stripe. White arrows, crystals; black arrow heads, cytoplasm.
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(a) Photograph of a peacock tail feather. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peafowl) (b) Photograph of a common kingfisher. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_kingfisher)
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(a) Photograph of Euchroma gigantean (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euchroma_gigantea). (b) TEM image of the elytra of E. gigantean (50,000×). (c) Schematic of interference in the multilayer structures of the elytra of E. gigantean.
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(a) Photograph of a Morpho rhetenor butterfly. (b) and (c) Scales of a M. rhetenor under microscope at low and high magnification, respectively. (d) TEM image of the ultrastructure on the M. rhetenor wing. (e) Reflection and absorption of the M. rhetenor wing. (f) Reflectance of a male M. rhetenor wing sample over the entire plane of incident (θ) and reflection (ϕ) angles.
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started out in mechanical engineering and became interested in nanotechnology with his studies on nanomechanics and nanofluidics. His research work and involvement with setting up some of the premier nano centers and alliances in the world, bringing together universities, hospitals, and federal agencies, showcases interdisciplinarity at work.

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