Module 2. Biologically inspired assembly of optical materials

The brilliant colors found in plants, insect, birds and mammals are among the most interesting and appealing examples 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 play an important role in a variety of applications and consumer products such as for 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 better understand and exploit the biological assembly of optical materials. Our main goals are to develop new con­cepts for the design of optical materials inspired by nature and to advance towards making materials and testing them in practical applications. To this end, the research program is structured in two parts: 1) Understanding the assembly of optical materials and developing a new toolset to target specific optical structures, and 2) Fabricating and applying optical materials based on the structural coloration concepts drawn from nature. The research of the module brings together comple­men­tary expertise in colloi­dal chemistry, physics, scat­tering, and self-assembly of colloids. Further input from the synthetic side is provided by the researchers of Module 1 and some of the outcomes be­nefit Module 3, as for instance in the context of bio-sensing.