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Rainbow spider's iridescence could inspire color technology advances

By
Brooks Hays

Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Scientists have identified the unique microstructures that lend Australian peacock spiders their bedazzling iridescence.

The abdomens of male peacock spiders offer a shiny rainbow coloration. To attract the attention of potential mates, the males gyrate their colorful behinds. Their mating dance is well studied, but now scientists have a better understanding of the surface structures that give the spider its unique colors.

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An international team of scientists used a full range of imaging and analysis techniques to locate the structural secrets of the spider's seductive shimmer.

A combination of electron microscopy, hyperspectral imaging, imaging scatterometry, nano 3D printing and optical modeling showed the unique structure and design of the spider's abdominal scales account for the iridescent display.

Each scale features an airfoil-like shape. The surface of the scales are textured by nanoscale diffraction grating. The pattern splits light into number light beams, each traveling in different directions, producing a mesmerizing coloration.

As researchers explained in a new release, the combination of the scales' textured pattern and shape "enables separation and isolation of light into its component wavelengths at finer angles and smaller distances than are possible with current man-made engineering technologies."

Researchers hope their findings -- published this week in the journal Nature Communications -- will inspire new optical technologies and help scientists manipulate light on smaller scales.

Improved fine-scale spectral resolution could prove useful to scientific instruments used on space missions and in spectroscopic devices designed to image and identify chemicals.

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