Researchers have been unable to build an ideal photonic crystal, or "champion" crystal, impeding the dream of ultrafast optical computers that run on light (photons) instead of electricity (electrons). But now, University of Utah chemists have discovered that photonic crystals with the ideal, diamond-like structure are found in the iridescent green scales of the Lamprocyphus augustus beetle from Brazil.
The beetle's sparkling green color is produced by the crystal structure of its scales, which are made of chitin (what forms the exoskeleton of most insects). The crystal structure of the scale material is a diamond-like architecture with building blocks of chitin and air, instead of carbon atoms in diamonds. The researchers are now trying to design a synthetic version of the beetle's photonic crystals.