Graduation Year

2014

Location

Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

Start Date

12-4-2014 2:00 PM

End Date

12-4-2014 3:00 PM

Description

At first glance, morpho butterfly wings appear to be a purple color. However, when they are held up to the light, they seem transparent. This is because morpho butterfly wings get their brilliant colors from the physical structure of the scales on the surface of the wing. This structure is a series of ridges spaced a few hundred nanometers apart. When light shines on these ridges, interference effects cause iridescence. We measured the spectrum of light reflected from a wing as a function of reflected angle and modeled these results mathematically. We also looked at morpho butterfly wings using a scanning electron microscope to verify the structure. Studying the structure of a butterfly wing can be used pedagogically to teach about the nature of light and to make observations about optical phenomena in the natural world.

Included in

Physics Commons

Share

COinS
 
Apr 12th, 2:00 PM Apr 12th, 3:00 PM

What Color are Purple Butterfly Wings: A Study of Optical Structures

Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

At first glance, morpho butterfly wings appear to be a purple color. However, when they are held up to the light, they seem transparent. This is because morpho butterfly wings get their brilliant colors from the physical structure of the scales on the surface of the wing. This structure is a series of ridges spaced a few hundred nanometers apart. When light shines on these ridges, interference effects cause iridescence. We measured the spectrum of light reflected from a wing as a function of reflected angle and modeled these results mathematically. We also looked at morpho butterfly wings using a scanning electron microscope to verify the structure. Studying the structure of a butterfly wing can be used pedagogically to teach about the nature of light and to make observations about optical phenomena in the natural world.