Pearls and shells of some mollusks are attractive inorganic materials primarily owing to the beauty of their natural lustrous and iridescent surface. The iridescent colors can be explained by diffraction or interference or both, depending on the microstructure of the surface. Strong iridescent colors are very evident on the polished shell of the mollusk Haliotis Glabra, commonly known as abalone. It would be interesting to study how these colors are produced on the surface of the shell. By using a scanning electron microscope (SEM), the surface of the shell is found to have a fine-scale diffraction grating structure, and stacks of thin crystalline nacreous layers or platelets are found below the surface. These observations suggest that the iridescent colors are caused by both diffraction and interference. From measurements done on the diffraction patterns that were obtained using a He-Ne laser illuminating the shell, the groove width of the grating structure was derived. Good agreement was found between the derived groove density by diffraction and that measured directly using the SEM. The crystalline structure of the nacreous layers of the shell is studied using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and SEM observations. The infrared absorption peaks of 700, 713, 862 and 1083 cm-1 confirmed that the nacre of the shell is basically aragonite. The strong iridescent colors of the shell are the result of high groove density on the surface which causes diffraction. The uniform stacking of layers of nacre below the surface of the shell also causes interference effects that contribute to the iridescent colors.
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