The precise control of light–matter interactions is crucial for the majority of known biological organisms in their struggle to survive. Many species have evolved unique methods to manipulate light in their environment using a variety of physical effects including pigment-induced, spectrally selective absorption or light interference in photonic structures that consist of micro- and nano-periodic material morphologies. In their optical performance, many of the known biological photonic systems are subject to selection criteria not unlike the requirements faced in the development of novel optical technology. For this reason, biological light manipulation strategies provide inspiration for the creation of tunable, stimuli-responsive, adaptive material platforms that will contribute to the development of multifunctional surfaces and innovative optical technology. Biomimetic and bio-inspired approaches for the manufacture of photonic systems rely on self-assembly and bottom-up growth techniques often combined with conventional top-down manufacturing. In this regard, we can benefit in several ways from highly sophisticated material solutions that have convergently evolved in various organisms. We explore design concepts found in biological photonic architectures, seek to understand the mechanisms underlying morphogenesis of bio-optical systems, aim to devise viable manufacturing strategies that can benefit from insight in biological formation processes and the use of established synthetic routines alike, and ultimately strive to realize new photonic materials with tailor-made optical properties.
This talk is focused on the identification of biological role model photonic architectures, a brief discussion of recently developed bio-inspired photonic structures, including mechano-sensitive color-tunable photonic fibers and reconfigurable fluid micro-lenses. Potentially, early-stage results in studying and harnessing the structure-forming capabilities of living cells that lie at the origin of many species’ ability to grow photonic materials will also be presented.