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.
Nanoscience is harnessing nanoscale phenomena seen in nature to create new techniques, materials, and products.
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.
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.
Science Museum of Minnesota
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