Zoom into the natural nanostructures that manipulate light on a Blue Morpho Butterfly! Starting with a normal digital camera, we zoom into the wing of the Blue Morpho using more powerful microscopes. We see the wing underneath an optical microscope, and finally, a scanning electron microscope. You'll see the 200 nanometer structures that produce the beautiful blue iridescent color of the Blue Morpho.
In this activity, museum visitors will be exposed to the term ‘Photonic Crystals’. They will see and explore some of the well-known photonic crystals in nature and will also be able observe one method that scientists use in trying to replicate this process.
Scanning Electron Microscope image of the overlapping scales on a Blue Morpho Butterfly wing. • SIZE: Scale bar representes 20 µm. • IMAGING TOOL: Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
The colors of the Blue Morpho's wing are generated by nanometer-sized structures on the wing's scales. In this image, light reflected from the scales creates the Morpho's characteristic iridescent blue color.
The colors of the Blue Morpho's wing are generated by nanometer-sized structures on the wing's scales. In this image, only the light passing through the wing is seen, revealing the wing's pigment-produced brown hue.
The iridescent colors of the Blue Morpho Butterfly's wings are produced by nanostructures that reflect different wavelengths of light.
The Blue Morpho is common in Central and South America and known for its bright blue wings. However, these iridescent colors are created not by pigments in the wing tissues but instead by the way light interacts with nanometer-sized structures on the Morpho's wing scales. This effect is being studied as a model in the development of new fabrics, dye-free paints, and anti-counterfeit technologies for currency.
The tree-like structures in this scanning electron microscope image of a cross section of a butterfly wing are on the undersides of the Morpho's wing scale ridges. These microribs reflect light to create iridescent colors.
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.