Changing Colors is an interactive exhibit that shows how some high-tech nanomaterials mimic natural phenomena. Super-small, light-reflecting structures—instead of pigments—on the wings of some butterflies create intense, iridescent colors. Nanoscientists have replicated this effect with layered, super-thin films. Watch the colors change on butterfly wings and thin-film slides as you move them beneath a light source, and discover how nanoscale structures can manipulate light and create color. Butterfly specimens deteriorate with heavy use, and may need to be replaced periodically.
In this hands-on activity, visitors explore the structure of seashells and learn that seashells are a composite material made of both inorganic and organic materials. Visitors compare the mechanical properties of plaster bricks and dried sheets of glue, which helps them discover that both toughness and hardness are important mechanical properties. To see what a shell would be like if it were not so tough, visitors try to break normal shells and shells that have been either baked or soaked in bleach.
"Exploring Structures - Butterfly" is a hands-on activity in which visitors investigate how some butterfly wings get their color. They learn that some wings get their color from the nanoscale structures on the wings instead of pigments.
Visitors will engage in activities showing various natural phenomena that scientists and engineers have emulated to address human problems. Visitors view peacock feathers at different angles to see iridescence, apply drops of water to observe the color changes, and look at other examples of iridescence in nature, such as a blue Morpho butterfly, tropical beetle wings, and abalone shells. Visitors also explore the Lotus Effect by applying drops of water onto Lotusan paint and stain resistant fabrics, two technologies that mimic the Lotus effect.