Birds & Optical Materials
We’ve known for years that birds have incredible vision. This is likely why they have been among the animals that inspired scientists in the optometry community. One that has been particularly useful to science is the male Eastern Bluebird. The feather colors for the species are not created by pigments but rather by nanostructures that self-assemble similar to beer foam. They work similarly to materials that undergo phase separation. This is when different substances become unstable & separate. Color-producing structures start out as bubbles of water inside living cells but are then replaced by air as features grow. These same optical structures, appearing like sponges with air bubbles under microscopes, are making new optical materials in labs today.