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Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics

Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics


  • Editor: Gregory W. Faris
  • Vol. 4, Iss. 10 — Oct. 2, 2009

Measuring and modelling optical scattering and the colour quality of white pierid butterfly scales.

S.M. Luke, P. Vukusic, and B. Hallam  »View Author Affiliations

Optics Express, Vol. 17, Issue 17, pp. 14729-14743 (2009)

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Colouration in butterfly wings is due to the interaction of light with a covering of scales on both wing surfaces. A combination of nanostructure in the scales, which reflect or scatter light, and absorption from chemical pigments in the scales and wing substrate create the final colour appearance. We compared the wing scale morphology of the pierid butterfly Pieris rapae (Small White) to the reflectance spectra from its wings. Its wing scales contain a dense array of pterin pigment beads. A positive correlation between bead-array density and wing reflectance, at wavelengths where the pigment does not absorb, was identified and characterised. We observed, however, that light scatter from these beads does not account for all of the broadband light scatter observed from the wings. The rest of the scale structure plays an important role in achieving high light scatter. Furthermore, combining the underlying scattering and absorption mechanisms within the butterfly scales enabled us to quantify the optical characteristics of the samples using CIELab colour theory.

© 2009 OSA

OCIS Codes
(330.1710) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color, measurement
(160.1435) Materials : Biomaterials

ToC Category:

Original Manuscript: May 19, 2009
Revised Manuscript: July 25, 2009
Manuscript Accepted: July 27, 2009
Published: August 5, 2009

Virtual Issues
Vol. 4, Iss. 10 Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics

S.M. Luke, P. Vukusic, and B. Hallam, "Measuring and modelling optical scattering and the colour quality of white pierid butterfly scales.," Opt. Express 17, 14729-14743 (2009)

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