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Inspired by the hair of blue tarantulas, researchers from The University of Akron lead a team that made a structural-colored material that shows consistent color from all viewing directions. This finding overturns the conventional wisdom that long-range order photonic structures are always iridescent, opening new potential to mass produce structural colors because highly ordered designs are easy to scale-up and manufacture. Bor-Kai (Bill) Hsiung and his colleagues at UA, Ghent University, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln published their research, which is featured on the cover of the January 2017 journal of Advanced Optical Materials.

“Structural colors are more vibrant and durable than the pigments used in most human-made products,” explained Hsiung, the lead author of this research and a Biomimicry Fellow in the Integrated Bioscience Ph.D. program at The University of Akron. “They are produced by optical effects when light interacts with nanostructures that are about the same size as the wavelength of light.” Think of a peacock, or a butterfly. The problem is that most structural colors are strongly iridescent, changing color when viewed from different angles. It’s beautiful out in nature, but not very functional when we’re watching television and we move to a new seat.”