A highly reflective biogenic photonic material from core–shell birefringent nanoparticles

Benjamin A. Palmer, Venkata Jayasurya Yallapragada, Nathan Schiffmann, Eyal Merary Wormser, Nadav Elad, Eliahu D. Aflalo, Amir Sagi, Steve Weiner, Lia Addadi, Dan Oron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Spectacular natural optical phenomena are produced by highly reflective assemblies of organic crystals. Here we show how the tapetum reflector in a shrimp eye is constructed from arrays of spherical isoxanthopterin nanoparticles and relate the particle properties to their optical function. The nanoparticles are composed of single-crystal isoxanthopterin nanoplates arranged in concentric lamellae around a hollow core. The spherulitic birefringence of the nanoparticles, which originates from the radial alignment of the plates, results in a significant enhancement of the back-scattering. This enables the organism to maximize the reflectivity of the ultrathin tapetum, which functions to increase the eye’s sensitivity and preserve visual acuity. The particle size, core/shell ratio and packing are also controlled to optimize the intensity and spectral properties of the tapetum back-scattering. This system offers inspiration for the design of photonic crystals constructed from spherically symmetric birefringent particles for use in ultrathin reflectors and as non-iridescent pigments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-144
Number of pages7
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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