Lecture Series: Bio-Inspired Photonics

An overview from Dr Silvia Vignolini

Dr Silvia Vignolini

Dr Silvia Vignolini, Reader in Chemistry and Biomaterials at the University of Cambridge, delivered the final ICAM webinar of 2017 on the topic of bio-inspired photonics.

The most brilliant colours in nature are obtained by structuring transparent materials on the scale of the wavelength of visible light. By controlling/designing the dimensions of such nanostructures, it is possible to achieve extremely intense colourations over the entire visible spectrum without using pigments or colorants. Colour obtained through structure, namely structural colour, is widespread in the animal and plant kingdom.

Such natural photonic nanostructures are generally synthesised in ambient conditions using a limited range of biopolymers. Given these limitations, an amazing range of optical structures exists: from very ordered photonic structures, to partially disordered, to completely random ones.

In this webinar, Dr Vignolini introduced some striking example of natural photonic structures and reviewed our recent advances to fabricate bio-mimetic photonic structures using the same material as nature. Biomimetic with cellulose-based architectures enables us to fabricate novel photonic structures using low cost materials in ambient conditions. Importantly, it also allows us to understand the biological processes at work during the growth of these structures in plants.

Dr Silvia Vignolini is a Reader in Chemistry and Biomaterials in Cambridge. She was awarded a PhD in Physics in 2009 at the European Laboratory for non-Linear Spectroscopy and the Physics Department at the University of Florence. During her PhD, she studied light-matter interaction in the near-field regime.

In 2010, she joined as a Research Associate the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, UK, working on optical properties of soft-materials. In 2014 she started her independent career and her current research interests are focused on using physical approaches to study the self-assembly of biopolymers both in nature and for the fabrication of novel functional biomaterials.