Influence of Core Type and Shell Thickness on Avian-Inspired Structural Colors Produced from Melanin Nanoparticle Assemblies

S Singla and ZP Yang and A Patil and H Guo and B Vanthournout and KZ Htut and MD Shawkey and M Tsige and A Dhinojwala, ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES, 15, 45229-45238 (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.3c08152

Hollow melanosomes found in iridescent bird feathers, including violet- backed starlings and wild turkeys, enable the generation of diverse structural colors. It has been postulated that the high refractive index (RI) contrast between melanin (1.74) and air (1.0) results in brighter and more saturated colors. This has led to several studies that have synthesized hollow synthetic melanin nanoparticles and fabricated colloidal nanostructures to produce synthetic structural colors. However, these studies use hollow nanoparticles with thin shells (<20 nm), even though shell thicknesses as high as 100 nm have been observed in natural melanosomes. Here, we combine experimental and computational approaches to examine the influence of the varying polydopamine (PDA, synthetic melanin) shell thickness (0-100 nm) and core material on structural colors. Experimentally, a concomitant change in overall particle size and RI contrast makes it difficult to interpret the effect of a hollow or solid core on color. Thus, we utilize finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) simulations to uncover the effect of shell thickness and core on structural colors. Our FDTD results highlight that hollow particles with thin shells have substantially higher saturation than same-sized solid and core-shell particles. These results would benefit a wide range of applications including paints, coatings, and cosmetics.

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