Extending the diatom’s color palette: non-iridescent, disorder-mediated color in marine diatom-inspired nanomembranes


The intricate, siliceous exoskeleton of many marine diatoms (single-celled phytoplankton) is decorated with an array of sub-micron, quasi-ordered pores that are known to provide protective and multiple life-sustaining functions. However, the optical functionality of any given diatom valve is limited because valve geometry, composition, and ordering are genetically programmed. Nonetheless, the near- and sub-wavelength features of diatom valves provide inspiration for novel photonic surfaces and devices. Herein, we explore the optical design space for optical transmission, reflection, and scattering in diatom-like structures by computationally deconstructing the diatom frustule, assigning and nondimensionalizing Fano-resonant behavior with configurations of increasing refractive index contrast (Δn), and gauging the effects of structural disorder on the resulting optical response. Translational pore disorder, especially in higher-index materials, was found to evolve Fano resonances from near-unity reflection and transmission to modally confined, angle-independent scattering, which is key to non-iridescent coloration in the visible wavelength range. High-index, frustule-like TiO2 nanomembranes were then designed to maximize backscattering intensity and fabricated using colloidal lithography. These synthetic diatom surfaces showed saturated, non-iridescent coloration across the visible spectrum. Overall, this diatom-inspired platform could be useful in designing tailored, functional, and nanostructured surfaces for applications in optics, heterogeneous catalysis, sensing, and optoelectronics.

ICB Affiliated Authors

Pavel Shapturenka, N. Isaac Zakaria, Fabian Birkholz, and Michael J. Gordon
Peer-Reviewed Article
Optics Express