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Title: Complex photonic structures in nature : from order to disorder
Author: Onelli, Olimpia Domitilla
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 2910
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Structural colours arise from the interaction of visible light with nano-structured materials. The occurrence of such structures in nature has been known for over a century, but it is only in the last few decades that the study of natural photonic structures has fully matured due to the advances in imagining techniques and computational modelling. Even though a plethora of different colour-producing architectures in a variety of species has been investigated, a few significant questions are still open: how do these structures develop in living organisms? Does disorder play a functional role in biological photonics? If so, is it possible to say that the optical response of natural disordered photonics has been optimised under evolutionary pressure? And, finally, can we exploit the well-adapted photonic design principles that we observe in Nature to fabricate functional materials with optimised scattering response? In my thesis I try to answer the questions above: I microscopically investigate $\textit{in vivo}$ the growth of a cuticular multilayer, one of the most common colour-producing strategies in nature, in the green beetles $\textit{Gastrophysa viridula}$ showing how the interplay between different materials varies during the various life stages of the beetles; I further investigate two types of disordered photonic structures and their biological role, the random array of spherical air inclusions in the eggshells of the honeyguide $\textit{Prodotiscus regulus}$, a species under unique evolutionary pressure to produce blue eggs, and the anisotropic chitinous network of fibres in the white beetle $\textit{Cyphochilus}$, the whitest low-refractive index material; finally, inspired by these natural designs, I fabricate and study light transport in biocompatible highly-scattering materials.
Supervisor: Vignolini, Silvia Sponsor: European Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: photonics ; optics ; light ; scattering ; materials science ; materials ; colour ; diffusion ; disorder ; photon ; layers ; bragg stack ; cellulose ; membranes ; eggshell ; reflectance ; refractive index ; scales ; beetles ; coleoptera ; white ; whiteness ; speckle ; spectrum ; spectra ; microscope ; pattern ; experiment ; physics ; chemistry ; pigments ; structural colour ; laser ; MATLAB ; python ; eggshells ; bird ; ecology ; zoology ; titania ; zinc oxide ; chitin ; complex ; multilayer ; nanofibrils ; nanotechnology ; electron microscopy ; transfer matrix method ; simulation ; modelling