Module 2. Photonic materials

The brilliant colors found in plants, insects, birds, and mammals are among the most exciting and appealing examples of how nature creates complex materials and uses them for specific functions such as signaling or camouflage. The diversity of biological organism and their very different environments has led to an unlimited variety of assembly processes and material architectures developed by nature over millions of years. In daily life, colored coatings and pigments are essential in various applications and consumer products such as paints, food, displays, packing, and optical filters. The design targets for an industrial application are often like the challenges faced by nature: high purity of the color, optical density, bleaching stability, and long lifetime.

In Module 2, we strive to leverage the inspiration given by nature to understand better and exploit the biological assembly of optical materials. Many organisms employ 100-nm-sized 2D and 3D photonic morphologies to generate color through interference, which are cumbersome or impossible to mimic through top-down methodologies. Building on studies of the analysis of photonic structures in nature in Phases 1 and 2, all Phase 3 projects focus on the bottom-up assembly of photonic materials inspired by these earlier projects. The research of the module brings together complementary expertise in chemistry, colloids, physics, scat­tering, computational physics, and nanoparticles with an interdisciplinary team formed by former members of Modules 1, 2, and 3.