Date: 14 Jul 2010

Biomimetically-inspired photonic nanomaterials

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Nature has been kind enough to provide us with a 3-billion year old portfolio of an on-going experiment with living systems. There are well-optimised engineering solutions to mechanical, aerodynamic, hydrodynamic and optical problems all to be found in the living world Bar-Cohen (Bioinspir Biomim 1:P1–P12, 2006), Bhusan (Phil Trans Roy Soc A 367: 1445–1486, 2009). However, Nature is severely limited in the materials that are at its disposal so that as engineers we can improve on Nature’s solutions to particular problems by taking Nature’s design template as a starting point and then incorporating our own more appropriate materials, or metamaterials into that template design. We can also use Nature’s solutions as a starting point in our own “evolutionary algorithms” by taking Nature’s 3-billion year old solution as our initial starting point and then extrapolating that solution to (effectively) thousands of billions of years into the future using digital computers. This review article will consider just one particular application area of biomimetics—photonic nanomaterials Vukusic (Natural Photonics. Physics World pp. 35–39, 2004).