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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: J. H. Eberly
  • Vol. 4, Iss. 5 — Mar. 1, 1999
  • pp: 177–182

Iridescence color of a shell of the mollusk Pinctada Margaritifera caused by diffraction

Y. Liu, J. E. Shigley, and K. N. Hurwit  »View Author Affiliations

Optics Express, Vol. 4, Issue 5, pp. 177-182 (1999)

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Shells and pearls often show iridescence color. The cause of this phenomenon has been attributed to diffraction, both diffraction and interference, or interference alone. We used a shell of the mollusk Pinctada Margaritifera, which shows very strong iridescence colors, to study how this color is produced in the layers of nacre in shells. From observations with a scanning electron microscope (SEM), this particular shell exhibits a very fine-scale diffraction grating structure. This suggests that the iridescence color is caused by diffraction, which was demonstrated by an experiment using an argon ion laser illuminating the shell to produce a distinct diffraction image. The strength of the iridescence color can be correlated to both the groove density of the diffraction grating formed by the shell, and the surface quality of the grooves themselves. A shell with a high groove density and a smooth groove surface produces a strong iridescence color.

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OCIS Codes
(050.1940) Diffraction and gratings : Diffraction
(050.2770) Diffraction and gratings : Gratings
(330.1690) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color

ToC Category:
Research Papers

Original Manuscript: January 12, 1999
Published: March 1, 1999

Yan Liu, J. Shigley, and K. Hurwit, "Iridescent Color of a Shell of the Mollusk Pinctada Margaritifera Caused by Diffraction," Opt. Express 4, 177-182 (1999)

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