Journal of Bionic Engineering

, Volume 5, Supplement 1, pp 14–19 | Cite as

Structural Colour in Butterfly Apatura Ilia Scales and the Microstructure Simulation of Photonic Crystal

  • Zhi-wu Han
  • Li-yan WuEmail author
  • Zhao-mei Qiu
  • Hui-ying Guan
  • Lu-quan Ren


The butterfly Apatura ilia is a species in the Northeast of China. There are billions of tiny scales on its wings, which overlap like roof tiles and completely cover the membrane, appearing as dust to people naked eye. The scales produce brilliant structural colour through their multilayer microstructure. In this paper, the microstructure and geometrical dimension of the scales were observed using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). The cross section micro-configuration of the purple scales was achieved using a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM). The reflectivity of the wing was measured by a spectrometer. The 3D multilayer microstructure of the ridges was optimized to 1D photonic crystal structure. The spectrometer experimental graph is in accord with the 1D photonic crystal simulation curves basically. In the end, the phenomenon of the purple structural colour was explained through the Snell equation.


butterfly scale structural colour photonic crystal 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Haruna T, Seth E M, Ioannis N M, Peter Y W. Effects of a butterfly scale microstructure on the iridescent colour observed at different angles. Optics Express, 1999, 5, 87–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    Ghiradella H, Aneshansley D, Eisner T, Silbergleid R E, Hinton H E. Ultraviolet reflection of a male butterfly: Interference colour caused by thin-layer elaboration of wing scales. Science, 1972, 178, 1214–1217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Gralak B, Tayeb G, Enoch S. Morpho butterflies wings colour modeled with lamellar grating theory. Optics Express, 2001, 9, 567–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. [4]
    Kinoshita S, Yoshioka S, Kawagoe K. Mechanisms of structural colour in the Morpho butterfly: Cooperation of regularity and irregularity in an iridescent scale. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, 2002, 269, 1417–1421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Vukusic P, Sambles J R, Lawrence C R, Wootton R J. Limited-view iridescence in the butterfly Ancylurismeliboeus. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, 2002, 269, 7–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [6]
    Brink J L, Lee M E. Confined blue iridescence by a diffracting microstructure: an optical investigation of the Cynandra opis butterfly. Applied Optics, 1999, 38, 5282–5289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    Vukusic P, Sambles J R, Lawrence C R, Wootton R J. Quantified interference and diffraction in single Morpho butterfly scales. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, 1999, 266, 1403–1411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    Vukusic P, Sambles J R, Ghiradella H. Optical classification of microstructure in butterfly wing-scales. Photonics Science News, 2000, 6, 61–66.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    Biro L P. Role of photonic-crystal-type structures in the thermal regulation of a Lycaenid butterfly sister species pair. Physical Review E, 2003, 67, 021907.1–021907.7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. [10]
    Vukusic P, Sambles J R. Photonic structures in biology. Nature, 2003, 424, 852–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. [11]
    Argyros A, Manos S, Large M C J, McKenzie D R, Cox G C, Dwarte D M. Electrontomography and computer visualisation of a three-dimensional ‘photonic’ crystal in a butterfly wing scale. Micron, 2002, 33, 483–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Ghiradella H. Hairs, bristles, and scales. Microscopic anatomy of invertebrates A, 1998, 11, 257–287.Google Scholar
  13. [13]
    Ghiradella H. Light and colour on the wing: Structural colours in butterflies and moths. Applied Optics, 1991, 30, 3492–3500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. [14]
    Parker A R. A vision for natural photonics. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A, 2004, 362, 2709–2720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. [15]
    Parker A R. 515 million years of structural colour. Journal of Optics A: Pure and Applied Optics, 2000, 2, 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. [16]
    Stavenga D G, Giraldo M A, Hoenders B J. Reflectance and transmittance of light scattering scales stacked on the wings of pierid butterflies. Optics Express, 2006, 11, 4880–4890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. [17]
    Stavenga D G, Stowe S, Siebke K, Zeil J, Arikawa K. Butterfly wing colours: Scale beads make white pierid wings brighter. R. Soc. Lond. B, 2004, 271, 1577–1584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. [18]
    Li B, Zhou J, Li L T, Li Q, Han S, Hao Z B. One-dimension photonic crystal structure in the Abalone Carapace. Chinese Science Bulletin, 2005, 13, 1422–1424. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  19. [19]
    McPhedran R C, Nicorovici N A, McKenzie D R, Rouse G W, Botten L C, Welch V, Parker A R, Wohlgennant M, Vardeny V. Structural colours through photonic crystals. Physica B: Physics of Condensed Matter, 2003, 338, 182–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. [20]
    Vukusic P, Wootton R J, Sambles J R Remarkable iridescence in the hindwings of the damselfly Neurobasis chinensis (Linnaeus) (Zygoptera: Calopterygidae). Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, 2004, 271, 595–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. [21]
    Parker A R, Mckenzie D R, Large M C J. Multilayer reflectors in animals using green and gold beetles as contrasting examples. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 1998, 201, 1307–1313.Google Scholar
  22. [22]
    Large M C J, McKenzie D R, Parker A R, Steel B C, Ho K, Bosi S G, Nicorovici N, McPhedran R C. The mechanism of light reflectance in silverfish. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A, 2001, 457, 511–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. [23]
    Vukusic P, Sambles R. Colour effects in bright butterflies. Journal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists, 2000, 116, 376–380.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jilin University 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhi-wu Han
    • 1
  • Li-yan Wu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zhao-mei Qiu
    • 1
  • Hui-ying Guan
    • 1
  • Lu-quan Ren
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Terrain-Machine Bionics Engineering (Ministry of Education, China)Jilin UniversityChangchunP. R. China

Personalised recommendations