Futuristic computing designs inside beetle scales

Sep 30, 2010
Eupholus schoenherri has scales with a diamond structure

(PhysOrg.com) -- Though it began as a science fair project involving a shiny Brazilian beetle, Lauren Richey’s research may advance the pursuit of ultra-fast computers that manipulate light rather than electricity.

While still at Springville High School, Lauren approached Brigham Young University professor John Gardner about using his to look at the beetle known as Lamprocyphus augustus.

When Lauren and Professor Gardner examined the scales, they noticed something unusual for iridescent surfaces: They reflected the same shade of green at every angle. The reason? Each beetle scale contained a crystal with a honeycomb-like interior that had the same structural arrangement as carbon atoms in a diamond.

What that has to do with futuristic computers is a stretch, but here is how the two connect: Scientists have long dreamed of based on light rather than electricity. In “,” chips would need photonic crystals to channel light particles. That’s easier said than done when dealing with high frequencies such as visible light.

During her first year at BYU, Lauren co-authored a study describing the photonic properties of these beetle scales. In reaction, one photonics expert told Wired that “This could motivate another serious round of science.”

Potentially these beetle scales could serve as a mold or template to which , like titanium or silica, can be added. The original beetle material can then be removed with acid leaving an inverse structure of the beetle crystal, a now usable photonic crystal in the visible light regions.

“By using nature as templates, you can create things that you cannot make synthetically,” Lauren said.

Now two years shy of a degree in physics, Lauren received funding from ORCA to examine the structures of two more species of iridescent beetles. With the help of a new microscope, she’s so far nailed down the structure of one (it’s a “face-centered cubic array of nanoscopic spheres”) and is still working on the other.

From BYU, Lauren hopes to launch into a Ph.D. program at either MIT or Cal-Berkeley and continue research in photonics.

Explore further: The first direct-diode laser bright enough to cut and weld metal

More information: Research paper: pre.aps.org/abstract/PRE/v77/i5/e050904

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User comments : 7

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Thex1138
not rated yet Sep 30, 2010
Perhaps if the crystal creation process can be determined organically then it might be possible in some future iteration of process to re-engineer cell DNA to replicate the material on the chip...
DrGravitas
not rated yet Oct 01, 2010
That is the most beautiful Beetle I've ever seen... such a wonderful body/head shape.
kevinrtrs
1.6 / 5 (7) Oct 01, 2010
To the evolutionists:

For your next dissertation please explain how the beetle or it's precursor was able to evolve this physical property into it's scale structures.

Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2010
To the evolutionists:

For your next dissertation please explain how the beetle or it's precursor was able to evolve this physical property into it's scale structures.

Simple answer: Over time. Kevin, tell us how "god" makes the universe work. Be specific now.
Ojorf
5 / 5 (2) Oct 04, 2010
What bugs me is that the beetle in the first photo is indeed Eupholus but the one she is holding is of the Cerambicidae, totally different families.

@kevintrs

Wow, maybe you should go read up on evolution, it really is quite simple and elegant.
Larz
not rated yet Oct 11, 2010
@ Ojorf

Yes, they are different families, but they have different properties that may be helpful. She is researching them both.

See the paper:

Study of natural photonic crystals in beetle scales and their conversion into inorganic structures via a sol–gel bio-templating route
Galusha et al J. Mater. Chem., 2010, 20, 1277-1284
Larz
not rated yet Oct 11, 2010
@ Ojorf

Yes, they are beetles from different families with different desirable properties. She is researching them both.

See this article to explain the difference:

Study of natural photonic crystals in beetle scales and their conversion into inorganic structures via a sol-gel bio-templating route

Journal of Materials Chemistry 2010 Galusha et al