Changing Colors

NISE Network product
Description: 

Changing Colors is an interactive exhibit that shows how some high-tech nanomaterials mimic natural phenomena. Super-small, light-reflecting structures—instead of pigments—on the wings of some butterflies create intense, iridescent colors. Nanoscientists have replicated this effect with layered, super-thin films. Watch the colors change on butterfly wings and thin-film slides as you move them beneath a light source, and discover how nanoscale structures can manipulate light and create color. Butterfly specimens deteriorate with heavy use, and may need to be replaced periodically.

Audience: 

Objectives

Big Idea: 
Nanoscience is harnessing nanoscale phenomena seen in nature to create new techniques, materials, and products.
Learning Goals: 
  • The butterfly scales and thin films contain no pigment.
  • The butterfly scales and thin films are made up of layers of super thin, transparent materials. The spacing between the layers causes only certain light waves to bounce back to our eyes as colors.
  • When you change the angle of the light, you change the color.
NISE Net Content Map: 
  • Scientists and engineers have formed the interdisciplinary field of nanotechnology by investigating properties and manipulating matter at the nanoscale.
  • Nanoscience, nanotechnology, and nanoengineering lead to new knowledge and innovations that weren't possible before.

Credits

Funding: 
Developed for the NISE Network with funding from the National Science Foundation under Award Numbers 0532536 and 0940143. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.
Permissions: 

Creative Commons license image Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike

Development Process: 

NISE Network products are developed through an iterative collaborative process that includes scientific review, peer review, and visitor evaluation in accordance with an inclusive audiences approach. Products are designed to be easily edited and adapted for different audiences under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. To learn more, visit our Development Process page.