Butterflies, peacocks and even beetles have long been wearing colors far beyond the grasp of even the European fashion industry. With their iridescent wings, carapaces and feathers, these fashionistas of the insect and animal kingdom have long rubbed our noses in the fact that they're prettier than we are. Now, thanks to research done at the University of Cambridge, these colors can be duplicated, and may lead to advancements in bank note security, along with ever-more dramatic seasons of "Project Runway".
By studying the Indonesian Peacock and Swallowtail butterfly, Mathias Kolle, along with Professor Jeremy Baumberg and Professor Ullrich Steiner of the University of Cambridge, were able to determine that the colors on these creatures are not produced by pigments, but rather by the way light bounces off of structures in their wings and feathers.
These microscopic concave depressions, which resemble the inside of an egg carton, are part cuticle and part air, allowing light to undergo a number of interesting refractory changes as it hits the surface, and producing a shiny and vibrant color as a result.
Electron Microscope Image of Concave Microstructures.: Or, what makes stuff pretty.
Using the awesome-sounding process of nanafabriction, the team was able to replicate a surface structure that had the same coloring as the tropical butterfly's wings. While nature is still better at it than we are, industrious humans have a wealth of artificial compounds which aid in making the creation of these color structures a great deal easier.
While this is great for science and scientists, who can now raise a glass and cheer at the thrill of discovery and knowledge for the good of mankind, the real question is: can it prevent crime?
The answer? Maybe.
Within the next few years, the hope is to have this color technology adapted for bank note and possibly passport use, making the faking of these items far more difficult unless you happen to have a nanofabrication machine lying around.
Hang on...here, in the back...this looks like...wait. Damn. This is our duonetic coupler. What's this? Oh, just our old arclight spanner. Sorry, no nanofabrication here.
While the useful and practical applications of this process abound, we can only imagine how quickly this will be co-opted for the fashion and even the tattooing world.
Finally, Twi-hards, you can get an Edward Cullen tattoo that really sparkles. Great.