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.
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.
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.
This scanning electron microscope image shows ridges on a Blue Morpho Butterfly wing scale. These ridges contain nanoscale structures that reflect light to create the Morpho's iridescent colors.
The overlapping scales on the wing of the Blue Morpho Butterfly contain nanoscale structures that reflect light to create iridescent colors. This scanning electron microscope image shows Morpho wing scales from above.
Mr. O talks about iridescence and Blue Morpho butterflies in another "O Wow" moment at the Children's Museum of Houston.
"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.