The Unusual Origin of Peacock Brown

Jun 28, 2005

Many animals' colors originate from photonic crystals, which reflect specific colors of light as a result of their nanoscopic structures, rather than from pigments, which derive their colors from their chemical composition. The brown in peacocks' tails is a particularly unusual type of photonic crystal coloration, according to research soon to appear in the journal Physical Review E.

Brown is a mixture of light of different colors. Generally, photonic crystals in animal coloring produce pure colors, such as blue, green, yellow or violet. Nevertheless, researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai have found that the brown in peacocks' feathers is indeed due to microscopic structure. The researchers' experiments and analysis show that peacocks' brown microstructures are a good deal more complex than most natural photonic crystals.

Mimicking the photonic crystals in peacock tail feathers could lead to new ways to manipulate light in cutting edge optical instruments. In addition, the discovery points the way to new paints and coatings that are not susceptible to the chemical changes that can degrade pigments over time.

Publication: Y. Li et al., Physical Review E, Forthcoming article

Source: American Physical Society

Explore further: Experiment with speeding ions verifies relativistic time dilation to new level of precision

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A mirror with a peephole

Aug 13, 2014

When light shines through air onto water, some of the light usually will be reflected back into the air. But at one specific angle, called the Brewster angle, all of the p-polarized light travels into the ...

High-energy particle collisions reveal the unexpected

Aug 08, 2014

The nucleus of an atom is composed of protons and neutrons, which are themselves made up of elementary particles called quarks and gluons. Observing these elementary particles is difficult and typically involves ...

Mysterious molecules in space

Jul 29, 2014

Over the vast, empty reaches of interstellar space, countless small molecules tumble quietly though the cold vacuum. Forged in the fusion furnaces of ancient stars and ejected into space when those stars ...

Recommended for you

How Paramecium protozoa claw their way to the top

Sep 19, 2014

The ability to swim upwards – towards the sun and food supplies – is vital for many aquatic microorganisms. Exactly how they are able to differentiate between above and below in often murky waters is ...

User comments : 0