ColorChanging Beetles May Be Key to More Vivid Eyeshadow Palettes

first_img A new color-generation technique found in nature could mean purer and more vivid cosmetic and paint hues, as well as better screen displays.Researchers from Singapore’s Yale-NUS College and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland discovered the mechanism in the wing casings of a snout weevil.It turns out there can be beauty in beetles.The so-called “rainbow” weevil (p. c. pavonius) gets its name from the prism of colored spots on its back, made of scales arranged in concentric rings of different hues. The pigments range from blue in the center to red at the outside.Most insects can produce one or two colors. But it’s rare that a single bug generates such a vast spectrum. If scientists can determine the source of this natural formation, they could blow current technology wide open.And that’s exactly what Vinodkumar Saranathan of Yale-NUS and Bodo Wilts from the Adolphe Merkle Institute at Fribourg hope to do.“The ultimate aim of research in this field is to figure out how the weevil self-assembles these structures because with our current technology we are unable to do so,” Saranathan, an assistant professor of science at Yale-NUS College, said in a statement.Upon further examination of a snout weevil from the Philippines, researchers found that the insect produces its rainbow palette using a method seen only in squid, cuttlefish, and octopuses—renowned for their capacity for camouflage.“The ability to produce these structures … will have applications in any industry which deals with color production,” Saranathan explained.Digital displays in your smartphone or tablet, for instance, could be made to provide the same true image from any angle, with no color distortion.“We can even use them to make reflective cladding for optical fibers, to minimize signal loss during transmission,” he added.The vibrant colors on this weevil’s scales—composed of a 3D crystalline structure made of chitin (the main ingredient in insect exoskeletons)—are determined by two factors: volume of chitin in the crystal structure, and size of the crystal structure in each scale.This talent for simultaneously controlling size and volume to fine-tune color has never before been shown in insects, according to Yale-NUS, which called the complex skill “quite remarkable.”“It is different from the usual strategy employed by nature to produce various different hues on the same animal,” Saranathan said, clarifying that chitin structures are typical of fixed size and volume, and different colors are generated by orienting the structure at different angles, which reflects different wavelengths of light.The full study was published in the journal Small.Don’t dismiss insects—they could one day save your life. If nothing else, they’re often bearers of fun names, like Megapropodiphora arnoldi and Xenomorphia resurrecta. Find out more about insects here.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. New Wasps Named After Cookies, ‘Doctor Who’ VillainsWorld’s Largest Bee Rediscovered in Wild Stay on targetlast_img