iridescence

Zoom into a Blue Morpho Butterfly video

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.

Changing Colors

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.

Scientific Image - Blue Morpho Butterfly

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.

Why are Seashells so Strong?

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.

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