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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: Andrew M. Weiner
  • Vol. 22, Iss. 12 — Jun. 16, 2014
  • pp: 14625–14636

Nanostructural basis of rainbow-like iridescence in common bronzewing Phaps chalcoptera feathers

Ming Xiao, Ali Dhinojwala, and Matthew Shawkey  »View Author Affiliations

Optics Express, Vol. 22, Issue 12, pp. 14625-14636 (2014)

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Structural colors are common in nature. Generally single feathers or other integuments contain only one structural color, but those of the common bronzewing display a consistent color gradient from blue to red (462-647nm) over the proximo-distal length of individual barbs. We used optical microscopy and macro- and micro-spectrophotometry to characterize this color gradient, and transmission electron microscopy to investigate the nanostructure. Combining optical modeling and experimental results, we demonstrate that the rainbow-like iridescence is caused by multilayer interference from organized arrays of melanosome rods in a keratin matrix and that the color gradient results from subtle shifts in both diameter and spacing of melanosome rods. This result illustrates tight developmental control feathers and may provide inspiration for the design of multi-colored coatings or fibers.

© 2014 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(230.4170) Optical devices : Multilayers
(240.0310) Optics at surfaces : Thin films
(330.1690) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color
(350.4238) Other areas of optics : Nanophotonics and photonic crystals

ToC Category:
Thin Films

Original Manuscript: March 25, 2014
Revised Manuscript: May 25, 2014
Manuscript Accepted: May 28, 2014
Published: June 6, 2014

Virtual Issues
Vol. 9, Iss. 8 Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics

Ming Xiao, Ali Dhinojwala, and Matthew Shawkey, "Nanostructural basis of rainbow-like iridescence in common bronzewing Phaps chalcoptera feathers," Opt. Express 22, 14625-14636 (2014)

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