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HOME > PAST ISSUE > May-June 1999 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Light-Reflection Strategies

Natural selection has produced a wealth of surfaces that interact efficiently with light. Technological applications abound, from better windows to Stealth

Andrew Parker

Figure 2. Some organismsClick to Enlarge Image

Optical surfaces and coatings in nature are often finely tuned to the character and abundance of the solar electromagnetic radiation with which they interact. These natural structures often rival the ones people have designed to perform similar functions, such as the antireflective strategies employed in the design of the Stealth bomber. Various organisms may employ systems that prevent reflection of light, reflect certain wave lengths of light selectively or even emit light to match their surface to the background. There is a long tradition of research that compares human designs to the structures produced by the blind work of natural selection. This article continues that tradition by comparing the reflective properties of naturally occuring structures to more recent, human designs.


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