Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors
Heifer International



Home > Press > Bird Feathers Produce Color Through Structure Similar to Beer Foam

Prum and Dufresne discovered that the nanostructures that produce some birds’ brightly colored plumage, such as the blue feathers of the male Eastern Bluebird, have a sponge-like structure. (Photo: Ken Thomas)
Prum and Dufresne discovered that the nanostructures that produce some birds’ brightly colored plumage, such as the blue feathers of the male Eastern Bluebird, have a sponge-like structure. (Photo: Ken Thomas)

Abstract:
Some of the brightest colors in nature are created by tiny nanostructures with a structure similar to beer foam or a sponge, according to Yale University researchers.

Bird Feathers Produce Color Through Structure Similar to Beer Foam

New Haven, CT | Posted on April 4th, 2009

Most colors in nature—from the color of our skin to the green of trees—are produced by pigments. But the bright blue feathers found in many birds, such as Bluebirds and Blue Jays, are instead produced by nanostructures. Under an electron microscope, these structures look like sponges with air bubbles.

Now an interdisciplinary team of Yale engineers, physicists and evolutionary biologists has taken a step toward uncovering how these structures form. They compared the nanostructures to examples of materials undergoing phase separation, in which mixtures of different substances become unstable and separate from one another, such as the carbon-dioxide bubbles that form when the top is popped off a bubbly drink. They found that the color-producing structures in feathers appear to self-assemble in much the same manner. Bubbles of water form in a protein-rich soup inside the living cell and are replaced with air as the feather grows.

The research, which appears online in the journal Soft Matter, provides new insight into how organisms use self-assembly to produce color, and has important implications for the role color plays in birds' plumage, as the color produced depends entirely on the precise size and shape of these nanostructures.

"Many biologists think that plumage color can encode information about quality - basically, that a bluer male is a better mate," said Richard Prum, chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and one of the paper's authors. "Such information would have to be encoded in the feather as the bubbles grow. I think our hypothesis that phase separation is involved provides less opportunity for encoding information about quality than most biologists thought. At the same time, it's exciting to think about other ways birds might be using phase separation."

Eric Dufresne, lead author of the paper, is also interested in the potential technological applications of the finding. "We have found that nature elegantly self assembles intricate optical structures in bird feathers. We are now mimicking this approach to make a new generation of optical materials in the lab," said Dufresne, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and physics.

Prum believes it was the interdisciplinary approach the team took that led to their success - a result he plans on celebrating "with another practical application of phase separation: champagne!"

Other authors of the paper include Heeso Noh, Vinodkumar Saranathan, Simon Mochrie Hui Cao (all of Yale University).

####

About Yale
Yale University comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, museums, and administrative support offices. Approximately 11,250 students attend Yale.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Suzanne Taylor Muzzin
203-432-8555

Copyright © Yale University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Virginia Tech physicists propose path to faster, more flexible robots: Virginia Tech physicists revealed a microscopic phenomenon that could greatly improve the performance of soft devices, such as agile flexible robots or microscopic capsules for drug delivery May 17th, 2024

Gene therapy relieves back pain, repairs damaged disc in mice: Study suggests nanocarriers loaded with DNA could replace opioids May 17th, 2024

Shedding light on perovskite hydrides using a new deposition technique: Researchers develop a methodology to grow single-crystal perovskite hydrides, enabling accurate hydride conductivity measurements May 17th, 2024

Oscillating paramagnetic Meissner effect and Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless transition in cuprate superconductor May 17th, 2024

Possible Futures

Advances in priming B cell immunity against HIV pave the way to future HIV vaccines, shows quartet of new studies May 17th, 2024

International research team uses wavefunction matching to solve quantum many-body problems: New approach makes calculations with realistic interactions possible May 17th, 2024

Aston University researcher receives £1 million grant to revolutionize miniature optical devices May 17th, 2024

Gene therapy relieves back pain, repairs damaged disc in mice: Study suggests nanocarriers loaded with DNA could replace opioids May 17th, 2024

Self Assembly

Diamond glitter: A play of colors with artificial DNA crystals May 17th, 2024

Liquid crystal templated chiral nanomaterials October 14th, 2022

Nanoclusters self-organize into centimeter-scale hierarchical assemblies April 22nd, 2022

Atom by atom: building precise smaller nanoparticles with templates March 4th, 2022

Photonics/Optics/Lasers

Aston University researcher receives £1 million grant to revolutionize miniature optical devices May 17th, 2024

With VECSELs towards the quantum internet Fraunhofer: IAF achieves record output power with VECSEL for quantum frequency converters April 5th, 2024

Nanoscale CL thermometry with lanthanide-doped heavy-metal oxide in TEM March 8th, 2024

Optically trapped quantum droplets of light can bind together to form macroscopic complexes March 8th, 2024

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project