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Applied Optics

Applied Optics


  • Vol. 39, Iss. 15 — May. 20, 2000
  • pp: 2496–2498

Insect thin films as sun blocks, not solar collectors

Daniel W. Koon and Andrew B. Crawford  »View Author Affiliations

Applied Optics, Vol. 39, Issue 15, pp. 2496-2498 (2000)

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We measured the visible reflectance spectra of whole wing sections from three species of iridescent butterflies and moths, for normal incidence, integrated over all reflected angles. In this manner, we separated the optics of the thin films causing the iridescence from the optics of the rest of the scale. We found that iridescence reduces solar absorption by the wing in all cases, typically by approximately 20% or less, in contrast to claims by Miaoulis and Heilman [Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 91, 122 (1998)] that the thin-film structures that produce iridescence act as solar collectors.

© 2000 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(170.1420) Medical optics and biotechnology : Biology
(240.0310) Optics at surfaces : Thin films
(260.3160) Physical optics : Interference
(310.6860) Thin films : Thin films, optical properties

Original Manuscript: July 29, 1999
Revised Manuscript: February 7, 2000
Published: May 20, 2000

Daniel W. Koon and Andrew B. Crawford, "Insect thin films as sun blocks, not solar collectors," Appl. Opt. 39, 2496-2498 (2000)

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  1. M. Goreau, “Sur l’irisation des ailes des insectes,” Ann. Soc. Entomol. Fr., 2nd series 1, 201–215 (1843).
  2. C. W. Mason, “Structural colors in insects II,” J. Phys. Chem. 31, 321–354 (1927). (This article contains an excellent summary of the early history of the study of iridescence in insects.) [CrossRef]
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  4. H. T. Ghiradella, “Light and color on the wing: structural colors in butterflies and moths,” Appl. Opt. 30, 3492–3500 (1991). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  5. B. D. Heilman, I. N. Miaoulis, “Insect thin films as solar collectors,” Appl. Opt. 33, 6642–6647 (1994). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  6. I. N. Miaoulis, B. D. Heilman, “Butterfly thin films serve as solar collectors,” Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 91, 122–127 (1998).
  7. H. Tada, S. E. Mann, I. N. Miaoulis, P. Y. Wong, “Effects of a butterfly scale microstructure on the iridescent color observed at different angles,” Appl. Opt. 37, 1579–1584 (1998). [CrossRef]
  8. H. Tabata, K. Kumazawa, M. Funakawa, J. Takimoto, M. Akimoto, “Microstructures and optical properties of scales of butterfly wings,” Opt. Rev. 3, 129–145 (1996). [CrossRef]
  9. P. Vukusic, “Quantified interference and diffraction in single Morpho butterfly scales,” Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B 266, 1403–1411 (1999). [CrossRef]
  10. T. D. Schultz, N. F. Hadley, “Structural colours of tiger beetles and their role in heat transfer through the integument,” Physiol. Zool. 60, 737–745 (1987).
  11. D. W. Koon, “Comment on ‘Butterfly thin films serve as solar collectors’,” Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 92, 459 (1999).
  12. Kodak Catalog no. 1181759. The reflectance of the white blank is more than 95% from less than 400 nm to greater than 1300 nm.
  13. A. A. M. Sayigh, Solar Energy Engineering (Academic, New York, 1977), as cited in Ref. 5.

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