Scales on the wings of certain insects, such as Trichoplusia orichalcea, exhibit a surface microstructure resembling a fine diffraction grating. Diffraction of incident light by this structure is responsible for many of the optical properties of the wings of this moth, such as the metallic yellow color and the almost-specular reflection and polarization properties of the scattered radiation. It is shown that by the use of null ellipsometry the polarization characteristics can be used to obtain the optical constants of the scale material. Theoretical considerations and suitable experimental conditions are discussed and evaluated.
© 1996 Optical Society of America
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