Chirped photonic crystals: a natural strategy for broadband reflectance


One-dimensional photonic crystals with slowly varying, i.e. "chirped", lattice period are responsible for broadband light reflectance in many diverse biological contexts, ranging from the shiny coatings of various beetles to the eyes of certain butterflies. We present a quantum scattering analogy for light reflection from these adiabatically chirped photonic crystals (ACPCs) and apply a WKB-type approximation to obtain a closed-form expression for the reflectance. From this expression we infer several design principles, including a differential equation for the chirp pattern required to elicit a given reflectance spectrum and the minimal number of bilayers required to exceed a desired reflectance threshold. Comparison of the number of bilayers found in ACPCs throughout nature and our predicted minimal required number also gives a quantitative measure of the optimality of chirped biological reflectors. Together these results elucidate the design principles of chirped reflectors in nature and their possible application to future optical technologies.

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Last updated on 09/02/2017