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Complexity and evolution of photonic nanostructures in bio-organisms: templates for material sciences


The physical explanation of the extraordinary appearances of many living entities faces complexity. Using a combination of microscopy techniques, we wish to develop knowledge of the micro- and nano-morphology of specific bio-organisms, selected for their particular ability to use light scattering as part of their living mechanisms.

This knowledge will be complemented by the precise characterization of the light filtering functions of the structurated organs, making use of micrometer-resolved spectrophotome tric and thermal exchange measurements. The relation between these and the optical density will be consolidated by large-scale numerical simulations.

On the other hand, the targeted organisms will be studied from the point of view of ecological and phenological history. In particular, closely related, or competing species will be designated for further physical examinations. Interdisciplinary exchanges, including, when available, paleontological data, will attempt to determine whether the optical scattering mechanisms constitutes a possible evolutive advantage which could explain the permanence of the bio-organism in its ecosystem.

With regard to the problem of complexity, different methods will need to be developed at each stage of the investigation. The study of the bio-organism in its environment, eventually at different evolutionary epochs, will require an analysis of a large number of interactions and dependencies among living populations; the experimental and theoretical study of the light-filtering functions will also cope with complexity, as it requires to account for a multi-dimensional hierarchical data set, including the knowledge of reflection, absorption and, polarization changes as a function of frequency, incidence and emergence angles, at various points of the bio-organism surface. The understanding of such hierarchical assemblies of elements with several length-scales is expected to provide guidance for the design of synthetic structures

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