Researchers have discovered that the way birds create their colorful plumage is so detailed and intricate that it might help us find better ways to create paint and colored clothing that won't fade, according to Science Daily.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield in England X-rayed the feathers of the jay bird and found that they don't use conventional dyes to create colors, nor pigments like human skin, but instead, the magic happens in the nanostructers of the birds.
These spongy structures are similar to the hair of humans. Unlike us though, the birds can control the size of the holes in these structures, and the sizes influence the amount of light that is reflected, which in turn influences the color that we see. Larger holes will have a broader wavelength, resulting in the color white, and conversely, smaller holes can make the color blue, according to the research.
"Conventional thought was that to control light using materials in this way we would need ultra precise and controlled structures with many different processing stages, but if nature can assemble this material 'on the wing,' then we should be able to do it synthetically too," said Andrew Parnell with the University of Sheffield's physics department. "Current technology cannot make color with this level of control and precision - we still use dyes and pigments. Now we've learned how nature accomplishes it, we can start to develop new materials such as clothes or paints using these nanostructuring approaches."