Mimicking Natural-Colored Photonic Structures with Cellulose-Based Materials

Ana Rita Quelhas, Ana Catarina Trindade

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Structural coloration has become a fascinating field of research, inspiring scientists and engineers to explore the vibrant colors observed in nature and develop bio-inspired photonic structures for various applications. Cellulose-based materials derived from plant fibers offer a promising platform for mimicking natural photonic structures. Their abundance, renewability, and versatility in form and structure make them ideal for engineering specific optical properties. Self-assembly techniques enable the creation of ordered, periodic structures at the nanoscale by manipulating the interactions between cellulose fibers through chemical modification or physical manipulation. Alternatively, additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing and nanoimprint lithography can directly fabricate desired structures. By em-ulating natural photonic structures, cellulose-based materials hold immense potential for applications such as colorimetric sensors, optoelectronic devices, camouflage, and decorative materials. However, further research is needed to fully com-prehend and control their optical properties, as well as develop cost-effective and scalable manufacturing processes. This article presents a comprehensive review of the fundaments behind natural structural colors exhibited by living organisms and their bio-inspired artificial counterparts. Emphasis is placed on understanding the underlying mechanisms, strategies for tunability, and potential applications of these photonic nanostructures, with special focus on the utilization of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) for fabricating photonic materials with visible structural color. The challenges and future prospects of these materials are also discussed, highlighting the potential for advancements to unlock the full potential of cellulose-based materials with structural color.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1010
Number of pages26
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2023


  • cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs)
  • circularly polarized light
  • liquid crystals
  • photonic properties
  • structurally colored CNC films


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