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Colors at the Nanoscale: Butterflies, Beetles and Opals

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.

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Scientific Image - Photonic Crystal

This is a scanning electron microscope image of a photonic crystal. The periodic arrangement of the holes in the material controls the movement of light within the crystal.

A photonic crystal's highly ordered and repetitive structure affects the way light moves through it. Similar periodic arrangements are found in nature—for example, in precious opals and in the wings of the Blue Morpho butterfly—and scientists are studying these natural periodic structures to learn more about their properties and potential applications. These crystals have potential uses in computer engineering,...

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