This Beetle Has a Thin Coating Whiter Than Anything Humans Can Make

By Jamie Condliffe on at

This beetle looks like it's been given a lick with a paintbrush—but in fact, it's covered in paper-thin scales that are brilliant white, and reflect more light than anything of a similar thickness that can be made by humans.

These critters — Cyphochilus to their friends — are covered in scales made from complex networks of chitin filaments. Chitin is like cellulose, and normally it reflects light poorly, so doesn't usually appear white. But new analysis reveals that the scales on these beetles have fibres of the stuff arranged in such a way that they reflect light of all colours anisotropically — that is, in only one direction, which means that when you look at it, you see all colours of light equally — making the surface appear a vivid white.

The scales are also ultra-thin, providing the bright white colour with little weight. Expect to hear in time of a range of new coatings inspired by these structures, which seek to provide the brightest white with super-thin coatings. Someone better tell Apple. [Scientific Reports via New Scientist]

Image by 林 敬偉 under Creative Commons licence