In the wake of extensive research being carried out to unearth the physics related to photonic band gap observed in structured photonic materials, researchers from the University of Surrey have developed an innovative technique for not only characterizing the internal structures in natural materials but also for replicating the interaction of these materials with light, using three-dimensional (3D) ceramic printing.
In general, the potential of these materials to diffuse, reflect, absorb, and transmit light is governed by their internal structure as well as their local-self uniformity.
In this work, the researchers observed a direct relationship between the potential of the internal structure to obstruct specific wavelengths in natural materials and the uniform nature of the internal structure, at wavelength scales. This in-depth understanding helped the researchers to create an innovative mathematical metric to identify the photonic structures that best controlled light propagation that enabled needs-based designing of newer materials with a range of functionalities.
As a way of putting the theory to test, the research team developed the world’s first amorphous gyroid, or triamond, structure including band gaps, by means of a 3D ceramic printer. The gyroid structure is identical to the structure of wings of certain butterflies. Akin to natural structures, these structures have the ability of absorb and reflect heat, light, and sound wavelengths, thus opening the door for the development of heat-rejecting window films and paints to enhance the energy efficiency of vehicles as well as buildings.
It is truly amazing that what we thought was an artificial design could naturally be present in nature. This discovery will impact how we design materials in the future to manipulate their interaction with light, heat and sound.
Dr Marian Florescu, University of Surrey
The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.