Tiny Tech #29: The Blue of a Spider

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

Got the blues? Well, someone who’s really blue - but likes it - is the cobalt blue tarantula. This large spider gets its color not from a pigment, but from tiny structures in its hair, which cause the reflected light to display an effect called interference. The same interference effect causes soap bubbles, opals, and butterfly wings to display many different colors depending on what angle you view them from. What is remarkable about the cobalt blue tarantula is that the color doesn’t change in this way, but stays the same.

Scientists have taken inspiration from the blue tarantulas: by mimicking the arrangements of the tiny structures in the spider hairs, it is possible to create new kinds of materials that show the same color when viewed from different angles. The key is to cleverly combine symmetrical structures that are ordered over both short- and long-ranges, as seen in the spider hair. The results show that it is possible to create nanostructures that display any desired color, with no need for pigments or dyes.

So what do you sometimes get from blue sky thinking? Yes… a real bolt from the blue!

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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