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3D print colored nanostructures using butterfly morphology

The male Cynandraopis, a tropical butterfly species, served as a model for 3D-printed structural colors.Credit: ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich researchers created artificial colors by 3D printing specific nanostructures inspired by the nanostructures of butterflies. This principle can be used to create color screens in the future.


Because of their new technology, the scientists in the group of Andrew de Mello, a professor of biochemical engineering, were inspired by butterflies. The feathers of the Cynandraopis species, native to tropical Africa, are decorated in bright colors. These are produced by a very complex regular surface structure in the size range of the wavelength of visible light. These structures amplify or cancel out the individual color components of light by deflecting the rays. Researchers led by deMello have succeeded in replicating the surface and other modified structures of Cynandraopis using nano 3D printing technology. In this way, they created an easy-to-use principle for generating structures that produce structural colors.

There are many examples of such structural colors in nature, including irregular surface structures found in other butterfly species. “But the normal nanostructures of the Cynandra opis wings were particularly well suited for reconstruction using 3D printing,” explains Xiaobao Cao, a former PhD student in the deMello group and lead author of the study. increase. The Cynandra opis structure consists of two grid layers stacked vertically to each other. Lattice spacing About 1/2 to 1 micrometer.

Whole color palette

By varying this grid spacing and grid height in the range of 250 nanometers to 1.2 micrometers, ETH researchers were able to create 3D printed structures that produced all colors in the visible spectrum. rice field. Many of these colors do not occur in the natural model (butterfly) on which their structure is based.

Researchers have succeeded in creating such surfaces using a variety of materials, including clear polymers. “This allowed us to illuminate the structure from behind to bring out the color,” explains Stavros Stavrakis, senior scientist and co-author of the study in the deMello group. “This is the first time we have been able to generate all colors in the visible spectrum as structural colors with a translucent material.”

Security function

As part of their research, scientists have created miniature images of 2 x 2 micrometer multicolored structural color pixels. Such small images could one day be used as a security feature for banknotes and other documents. Since you can make colors with transparent materials, you can also make color filters for optical technology. This is in good agreement with the main research activities of Professor de Mello’s group, which develops microfluidic systems (miniaturized systems for chemical and biological experiments).

Large-scale production of nanostructures is also possible, researchers say. You can 3D print the negative structure and use it as a template to create a large number of duplicates. This means that this principle may be suitable for manufacturing high resolution color displays such as thin bendable screens. And finally, scientists point out that structural colors can replace the pigments used in today’s prints and paintings. Structural colors have certain advantages over traditional pigments. It lasts a long time because it does not fade when exposed to light, and in most cases has a good environmental footprint.

The study was published in Advanced material..


Computational modeling explains why blue and green are the brightest colors in nature.


For more information:
Xiaobao Cao et al, Structural Color Duplication of Cynandra opis Butterfly for Bio-Inspired Big Rating Color Filters, Advanced material (2022). DOI: 10.1002 / adma.202109161

Quote: 3D printing colored nanostructures using butterfly morphology (February 9, 2022) February 9, 2022 https://phys.org/news/2022-02-butterfly-morphology-3d- Obtained from nanostructures.html

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3D print colored nanostructures using butterfly morphology

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