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October 25th, 2007 features Nanotechnology Lab

My concept of using scales of tropical butterflies for vapor sensing came from understanding the principles of photonic sensors. While these photonic sensors based on structural color can be more attractive that those based on organic dyes (organic dyes tend to photobleach), the unmet need in photonic sensors is their poor selectivity - one still needs to have an array of such sensors for more selective vapor detection. Accidentally, I came across an image of a tropical butterfly at a very high magnification where the details of butterfly wings were at the nanoscale range. It became clear to me that these features can be used for vapor sensing and we may be able to get more selective vapor responses because of the well-organized hierarchical nanostructure of the butterfly wing scale.


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