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The Science Behind Butterfly Pigmentation Could Help Many Industries


Butterflies are undoubtedly beautiful. Their bold wing colors stand out in nature and beckon our attention as the animal seemingly floats through the air. Butterflies come in all colors including bold blue, nearly neon green, and vibrant orange. But these colorful wings contain more than just a strong pigment, they also possess the ability to scatter light within nanoscale lattice structures that change the way we see the wings' colors.

Innovators Shu Yang and Dan Janzen have collaborated to bring the science behind color in butterfly wings to a wide range of industries. Their group has created a new material that possesses properties similar to the iridescence and hydrophobicity of butterfly skin using a unique holographic lithography technique. They are now working to transfer this technology and the innovative material to use as a responsive building skin.
Yang and Janzen are hoping that these developments will propel them toward new discoveries in human ecosystems, engineering, ecology, and biologically inspired building structures. One specific development is the creation of an oil-repelling spray coating that is transparent and superhydrophobic and can be used to keep solar panels and buildings cleaner, drier, and more efficient.