CAMBRIDGE, England, June 2 (UPI) — British scientists say they’ve found a way to mimic the bright colors found on the wings of tropical butterflies — a finding that might help prevent forgery.
The researchers said duplicating the striking iridescent colors found on some beetles, butterflies and other insects has proven difficult, partly because rather than relying on pigmentation, the colors are produced by light bouncing off microscopic structures.
The problem was solved by doctoral student Mathias Kolle, working with Professors Ullrich Steiner and Jeremy Baumberg at the University of Cambridge. The researchers studied the Indonesian Peacock or Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio blumei), whose wing scales are composed of intricate, microscopic structures that resemble the inside of an egg carton.
Using a combination of nanofabrication procedures, Kolle and his colleagues said they were able to make structurally identical copies of the butterfly scales, and those copies produced the same vivid colors as the butterflies’ wings.
“We have unlocked one of nature’s secrets and combined this knowledge with state-of-the-art nanofabrication to mimic the intricate optical designs found in nature,” Kolle said. “These artificial structures could be used to encrypt information in optical signatures on banknotes or other valuable items to protect them against forgery.”
The research appears in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.