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Proceedings Paper

Playing with light in diatoms: small water organisms with a natural photonic crystal structure
Author(s): Luca De Stefano; Mario De Stefano; Pasqualino Maddalena; Luigi Moretti; Ilaria Rea; Vito Mocella; Ivo Rendina
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Paper Abstract

Complex micro- and nano-structured materials for photonic applications are designed and fabricated using top technologies. A completely different approach to engineering systems at the sub-micron-scale consists in recognizing the nanostructures and morphologies that nature has optimized during life's history on earth. In fact, biological organisms could exhibit ordered geometries and complex photonic structures which often overcome the products of the best available fabrication technologies. An example is given by diatoms. They are microalgae with a peculiar cell wall made of amorphous hydrated silica valves, reciprocally interconnected in a structure called the frustule. Valve surfaces exhibit specie-specific patterns of regular arrays of chambers, called areolae, developed into the frustule depth. Areolae range in diameter from few hundreds of nanometers up to few microns, and can be circular, polygonal or elongate. The formation of these patterns can be modeled by self-organised phase separation. Despite of the high level of knowledge on the genesis and morphology of diatom frustules, their functions are not completely understood. In this work, we show that the silica skeletons of marine diatoms, characterized by a photonic crystal-like structure, have surprising optical properties, being capable of filtering and focalizing light, as well as exhibiting optical sensing capabilities.

Paper Details

Date Published: 23 May 2007
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 6593, Photonic Materials, Devices, and Applications II, 659313 (23 May 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.723987
Show Author Affiliations
Luca De Stefano, CNR-IMM (Italy)
Mario De Stefano, Second Univ. of Naples (Italy)
Pasqualino Maddalena, Univ. of Naples Federico II (Italy)
Luigi Moretti, Univ. Mediterranea of Reggio Calabria (Italy)
Ilaria Rea, CNR-IMM (Italy)
Univ. of Naples Federico II (Italy)
Vito Mocella, CNR-IMM (Italy)
Ivo Rendina, CNR-IMM (Italy)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6593:
Photonic Materials, Devices, and Applications II
Ali Serpengüzel; Gonçal Badenes; Giancarlo C. Righini, Editor(s)

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