Orientation-Dependent Reflection of Structurally Coloured Butterflies

Sigrid Zobl*, Bodo D. Wilts, Willi Salvenmoser, Peter Pölt, Ille C. Gebeshuber, Thorsten Schwerte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The photonic structures of butterfly wing scales are widely known to cause angledependent colours by light interference with nanostructures present in the wing scales. Here, we quantify the relevance of the horizontal alignment of the butterfly wing scales on the wing. The orientation-dependent reflection was measured at four different azimuth angles, with a step size of 90°, for ten samples-two of different areas of the same species-of eight butterfly species of three subfamilies at constant angles of illumination and observation. For the observed species with varying optical structures, the wing typically exhibits higher orientation-dependent reflections than the individual scale. We find that the measured anisotropy is caused by the commonly observed grating structures that can be found on all butterfly wing scales, rather than the local photonic structures. Our results show that the technique employed here can be used to quickly evaluate the orientation-dependence of the reflection and hence provide important input for bio-inspired applications, e.g., to identify whether the respective structure is suitable as a template for nanoimprinting techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Butterflies
  • Imprinting technique
  • Instrument adaptation
  • Orientation-dependent reflection
  • Structural color

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology

Treatment code (Nähere Zuordnung)

  • Experimental


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