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Workshop 2007

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The BioPhot

The BioPhot Project




Start date of project: 1st of May 2005

Duration: 36 months

Project coordinator: Prof. Jean Pol Vigneron

Project coordinator organisation name: Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, Namur.


The BioPhot concept


The physical explanation of the extraordinary appearances of many living entities faces complexity. Another side of this complexity is the way in which living organisms use their appearance and interaction with the most important segment of the electromagnetic spectrum – visible light – and its neighboring ranges like UV and IR to enhance their survival and reproduction chances. This “evolutionary pressure” during many millennia of evolution yielded highly optimized “optical devices and materials” which accomplish complex tasks ranging from sexual signaling to thermal management. On the other hand, such structures cannot be efficiently investigated just from one point of view, a complex, multidisciplinary approach involving: high resolution structural and physical characterization, evolutionary data both in time and geographic spread, modeling and the study of the behavior of the presently living organisms is needed to obtain a sufficiently detailed and deep insight on one hand the evolutionary processes which optimized a certain structure for a well defined task and on the other hand in the way in which different but related structures exhibit altered properties. Using a combination of microscopy techniques, we wish to develop knowledge of the micro- and nano-morphology of specific bio-organisms, selected for their particular ability to use light scattering as part of their living mechanisms. This knowledge will be complemented by the precise characterization of the light filtering functions of the structured organs, making use of micrometer-resolved spectrophotometric and thermal exchange measurements. The relation between these and the optical density will be consolidated by large-scale numerical simulations. On the other hand, the targeted organisms will be studied from the point of view of ecological and phenological history. In particular, closely related, or competing species will be designated for further physical examinations. Interdisciplinary exchanges, including, when available, paleontological data, will attempt to determine whether the optical scattering mechanisms constitute a possible evolutive advantage which could explain the permanence of the bioorganism in its ecosystem. With regard to the problem of complexity, different methods will need to be developed at each stage of the investigation. The study of the bio-organism in its environment, eventually at different evolutionary epochs, will require an analysis of a large number of interactions and dependencies among living populations; the experimental and theoretical study of the light-filtering functions will also cope with complexity, as it requires to account for a multidimensional hierarchical data set, including the knowledge of reflection, absorption and, polarization changes as a function of frequency, incidence and emergence angles, at various points of the bio-organism surface. Understanding such hierarchical assemblies of elements with several length-scales is expected to provide guidance for the design of synthetic structures and to the improvement of available simulation and modelling tools which can significantly reduce the development costs of the new photonic materials structured on the nanoscale.

Participating Institutes

FUNDP : Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, Namur, Belgium

Jean Pol Vigneron (coordinator) +32 81 724711


MFA : Hungarian Academy of Sciences Research Institute for Technical Physics and

Materials Science, Budapest, Hungary

László P. Biró (WP2 leader) +36 1 392 2681 


HNHM : Hungarian Natural History Museum, Budapest, Hungary

Zsolt Bálint +36 1 267-7100 (7101)


NHM : The Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom

Andrew Parker (WP1 leader) +44 (0)207 942 6149


UPMC-P6 Université Pierre et Marie Curie - Paris 6

Serge Berthier (WP3 leader) +33 1 44 27 40 85


Last updated: Sept 10, 2007 by Géza I. Márk ,
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