The bright blue colour of the Cyanophrys remus butterfly has its origin in the unique periodic nanostructures in its wings, which are called ‘photonic crystals’. For more than two decades, engineers in Photonics technology are trying to understand the operation of such photonic crystals. Their unique properties enable new ways to control, guide and manipulate light leading to new applications including optical chips for future light-powered computers and for medical analysis, new solar cells and new light sources.
It was common belief that artificial man-made photonic crystals can behave as transparent media only when their feature sizes are close to the nanometer-scale when working with visible light. Considering that one nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter, fabricating human-scale devices consisting of photonic crystal sub-structures with such small dimensions is extremely challenging.
Researchers from VUB B-PHOT Brussels Photonics have now discovered transparent photonics crystals that have significantly larger features, which makes their fabrication easier, cheaper and faster. This first led them to address a long-standing challenge in the domain of fiber optic technology, together with colleagues from University of Mons (Belgium) and the Leibnitz Institute of Photonic Technology (Germany)'
The research has been published in Nature