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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2022
  2. Biological systems have a remarkable capability of synthesizing multifunctional materials that are adapted for specific physiological and ecological needs. When exploring structure–function relationships related to multifunctionality in nature, it can be a challenging task to address performance synergies, trade-offs, and the relative importance of different functions in biological materials, which, in turn, can hinder our ability to successfully develop their synthetic bioinspired counterparts. Here, we investigate such relationships between the mechanical and optical properties in a multifunctional biological material found in the highly protective yet conspicuously colored exoskeleton of the flower beetle, Torynorrhina flammea . Combining experimental, computational, and theoreticalmore »approaches, we demonstrate that a micropillar-reinforced photonic multilayer in the beetle’s exoskeleton simultaneously enhances mechanical robustness and optical appearance, giving rise to optical damage tolerance. Compared with plain multilayer structures, stiffer vertical micropillars increase stiffness and elastic recovery, restrain the formation of shear bands, and enhance delamination resistance. The micropillars also scatter the reflected light at larger polar angles, enhancing the first optical diffraction order, which makes the reflected color visible from a wider range of viewing angles. The synergistic effect of the improved angular reflectivity and damage localization capability contributes to the optical damage tolerance. Our systematic structural analysis of T. flammea ’s different color polymorphs and parametric optical and mechanical modeling further suggest that the beetle’s microarchitecture is optimized toward maximizing the first-order optical diffraction rather than its mechanical stiffness. These findings shed light on material-level design strategies utilized in biological systems for achieving multifunctionality and could thus inform bioinspired material innovations.« less
  3. Knots play a fundamental role in the dynamics of biological and physical systems, from DNA to turbulent plasmas, as well as in climbing, weaving, sailing, and surgery. Despite having been studied for centuries, the subtle interplay between topology and mechanics in elastic knots remains poorly understood. Here, we combined optomechanical experiments with theory and simulations to analyze knotted fibers that change their color under mechanical deformations. Exploiting an analogy with long-range ferromagnetic spin systems, we identified simple topological counting rules to predict the relative mechanical stability of knots and tangles, in agreement with simulations and experiments for commonly used climbingmore »and sailing bends. Our results highlight the importance of twist and writhe in unknotting processes, providing guidance for the control of systems with complex entanglements.« less
  4. Abstract

    Nature’s light manipulation strategies—in particular those at the origin of bright iridescent colors—have fascinated humans for centuries. In recent decades, insights into the fundamental concepts and physics underlying biological light-matter interactions have enabled a cascade of attempts to copy nature’s optical strategies in synthetic structurally colored materials. However, despite rapid advances in bioinspired materials that emulate and exceed nature’s light manipulation abilities, we tend to create these materials via methods that have little in common with the processes used by biology. In this review, we compare the processes that enable the formation of biological photonic structures with the proceduresmore »employed by scientists and engineers to fabricate biologically inspired photonic materials. This comparison allows us to reflect upon the broader strategies employed in synthetic processes and to identify biological strategies which, if incorporated into the human palette of fabrication approaches, could significantly advance our abilities to control material structure in three dimensions across all relevant length scales.

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