Microstructures make a beetle brilliant | Science News

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Microstructures make a beetle brilliant

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7:25pm, January 30, 2007

Engineers looking to make a variety of surfaces whiter and brighter could learn a few things from a lowly beetle, a new study suggests.

The tiny scales that cover several beetles in the Cyphochilus genus of southeastern Asia are much whiter than natural substances such as milk and tooth enamel and are almost as bright as a sheet of paper, says Pete Vukusic, a physicist at Exeter University in England.

Microscopic analyses of white Cyphochilus scales show that their brilliance isn't a result of any pigment. Indeed, the scales are made of a translucent material called chitin. The whiteness of the 5-micrometer-thick scales stems from their internal microstructure—a loosely packed, ch

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