The Royal Society

The amazing world of structural colour

Posted by on 4 July 2011

Posted by How Nature Dresses To Impress – Niraj Lal, University of Cambridge

Nature has learnt to make colour in a wide variety of ways and for lots of different reasons.

Colour can attract a mate, scare off a predator, lure in a pollinator or sing out to the world that we’re happy and loving life.

One of the most striking ways nature can make colour is with intricate structures on the nanoscale – we call this ‘Structural Colour’ and it’s responsible for the shimmering colours on butterflies, the pearly sheen of abalone shells, and the startling iridescence of peacock feathers.

Scientists at the Universities of Cambridge and Exeter have recently discovered that flowers have structural colour too that’s been hidden from researchers’ eyes for hundreds of years! 

At our exhibit we show how structural colour works, the incredible ways that nature uses it, and how we can make structural colours of our own using cutting-edge nanotechnology in our labs.

Come along to our stall to look at live bees buzzing around structurally coloured flowers, get boogieing with our fruity ‘Structural Colour Dance’, and take away some nectar from our huge iridescent flower – all while learning about the amazing world of structural colour.