IGM Colloquium: The Image Forming Mirror in the Eye of the Scallop

© 2017 EPFL

© 2017 EPFL

The Image Forming Mirror in the Eye of the Scallop


Organic crystals are found in many photonic systems in nature, where they are used to produce an extraordinary array of optical phenomena from the white color in certain spiders, to the silvery reflectance of fish scales and the brilliant iridescent colors of planktonic crustaceans and tropical fish. Organisms are able to manipulate the optical properties of such systems "simply" by varying the size, morphology and arrangement of the crystals. Here we discuss how optically-functional organic crystals are used to produce images in two of Nature’s most spectacular visual systems – the eyes of scallops and shrimp.


Dr. Benjamin Palmer studied chemistry as an undergraduate in Cardiff University and continued there for a PhD with Prof. Kenneth Harris. Dr. Palmer’s PhD focused on fundamental studies of the interaction of polarized X-rays with materials (the phenomena of X-ray birefringence and X-ray dichroism). This work led to the development of the X-ray Birefringence Imaging (XBI) technique. Following a short postdoc in Swansea University he moved to the Weizmann Institute in 2014. From 2014 to 2015 he was a Dean of Faculty and Koshland Prize Fellow, followed by a Cross-Disciplinary Human Frontiers Fellowship. Dr. Palmer is currently interested in how organisms make and use organic crystals to manipulate light for different optical functions (the field of ‘organic biomineralization’), with a particular focus on visual systems based on reflective rather than refractive optics. 

Author: IGM Colloquium