I recently had my very first research poster presentation at the 7th annual Cleveland State Interdisciplinary research conference. My research is still in its early stages, but I’m excited about the prospects. After a year of diving into the fascinating world of structural colors and getting familiar with what has already been published, I think I might have found a gap in the research that I may be able to bridge.
Structural coloration is the phenomenon of color-production without pigments. It is common in nature. Around 90% of naturally blue-colored organisms create color through this mechanism. Color is produced by light scattering at the interface of nanostructures of biological materials. These nanoscale structures include various substances that differ in their refractive index, which greatly enhances light scattering. What is exciting about structural colors is that they don’t require pigments, which makes them more energy-efficient to manufacture and potentially more environmentally-friendly. Most research on structural colors has focused on butterfly wings, other insects ,and bird feathers. The latter is an area of focus in my lab, advised by Dr. Shawkey.
One way or another, I started investigating eggshells. One thing that really caught my interest is that most of the white-colored eggshells have properties that cause UV light reflection. Eggshells are predominantly made of calcite (CaCO3), a readily available material in nature. What is it that makes the eggshells reflect UV light? Is it their material (CaCO3)? The arrangement of the material? Both? Something else?
Trying to answer these questions might keep me in the lab for quite some time. Most exciting to me is the potential for solving (human) challenges with this new knowledge. Where do we need UV reflection? Which specific properties can result in structural colors? Is there something about CaCO3 that makes it a good material for light reflection?