Marine Shells May Help Develop Responsive, Transparent Displays

The blue-rayed limpet is a tiny mollusk that lives in kelp beds along certain coasts. Scientists at MIT and Harvard University have identified two optical structures within the limpet's shell that give its blue-striped appearance. The structures are configured to reflect blue light while absorbing all other wavelengths of incoming light. The researchers speculate that such patterning may have evolved to protect the limpet, as the blue lines resemble the color displays on the shells of more poisonous soft-bodied snails. These findings represent the first evidence of an organism using mineralized structural components to produce optical displays. The researchers say such natural optical structures may serve as a design guide for engineering color-selective, controllable, transparent displays that require no internal light source and could be incorporated into windows and glasses.