Where physics meets biology: Pigment colors and structural colors
You may be wondering what physics has to do with biology? Well, here I will provide you an example to show the connection between these two branches of science. I will use color of butterfly wings and color of human skin as examples to explain pigment colors and structural colors.
Let us take vibrantly colored wings of butterflies, which are made of tiny overlapping scales. These scales are at different angles which reflect and refract light differently. Based on the angle of the scales, we see different colors. This is an example of structural color.
Color of human skin is due to melanin pigment. Pigments are chemical in nature. Melanin is synthesized by the skin cells of both dark and light skinned people. Variation of skin color in humans is based on quantity, form of melanin synthesized and exposure to sunlight.
Structural colors get displayed fast, they are sharp, bright and can change color rapidly whereas pigments in biological systems are drab, slow to express and remain displayed for a longer time.
Read to get more information about structural colors in biological systems.
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About the author: Dr. Sarkar is a faculty at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL. She is passionate about the impact of science in our life. She inspires her students with her infectious enthusiasm.
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