Wednesday 21 May 2008

A "champion" Photonic Crystal Discovered in beetle, for Future Optical Computers

It appears that a simple creature like a beetle provides scientists with one of the technologically most sought-after structures for the next generation of computing. University of Utah chemists determined that an inch-long beetle from Brazil that glows iridescent green because it evolved a crystal structure in its scales that is like the crystal structure of diamonds. Such a structure is considered an ideal architecture for "photonic crystals" that will be needed to manipulate visible light in ultrafast optical computers of the future.

The microscopic image to the right shows individual scales attached to the exoskeleton of the beetle Lamprocyphus augustus, and how the scales glow iridescent green because the fingernail-like material in the scales has a diamond-like crystal structure that reflects green light.

The beetle’s shiny, sparkling green color is produced by the crystal structure of its scales, not by any pigment. The scales are made of chitin, which forms the external skeleton, or exoskeleton, of most insects and is similar to fingernail material. The scales are affixed to the beetle’s exoskeleton. Each measures 200 microns (millionths of a meter) long by 100 microns wide. A human hair is about 100 microns thick.

Researchers are now trying to design a synthetic version of the beetle's photonic crystals, using scale material as a mold to make the crystals from a transparent semiconductor.

Read further and or reflect on this video of a similar type of green iridescent beetle.
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