Iridescent surfaces exhibit vivid colours which change with the angle of incidence or viewing due to optical wave interference in the multilayer structure present at the wavelength scale underneath the surface. In nature, one can find examples of iridescent Coleoptera for which the hue changes either greatly or slightly with the angle. Because these species typically make these structures from a single biological material (usually chitin) and air or water as the low refractive index component, they have evolved by adjusting the layer thicknesses in order to display quite different iridescent aspects. Taking inspiration from this proven strategy, we have designed and fabricated periodic TiO/SiO multilayer films in order to demonstrate the concept of structurally tuned iridescent surfaces. Titanium or silicon oxide layers were deposited on a glass substrate using dc reactive or RF magnetron sputtering techniques, respectively. Two structures were designed for which the period and the TiO/SiO layer thickness ratio were varied in such a way that the films displayed radically different iridescent aspects: a reddish-to-greenish changing hue and a stable bluish hue. The fabricated samples were characterized through specular reflectance/transmittance measurements. Modelling of transmittance spectra using standard multilayer film theory confirmed the high quality of the twelve-period Bragg reflectors. The chromaticity coordinates, which were calculated from measured reflectance spectra taken at different angles, were in accordance with theoretical predictions. © IOP Publishing Ltd and Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft.
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