Geometric design of antireflective leafhopper brochosomes

Lin Wang, Zhuo Li, Sheng Shen, Tak Sing Wong

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In nature, leafhoppers cover their body surfaces with brochosomes as a protective coating. These leafhopper-produced brochosomes are hollow, buckyball-shaped, nanoscopic spheroids with through-holes distributed across their surfaces, representing a class of deployable optical materials that are rare in nature. Despite their discovery in the 1950s, it remains unknown why the sizes of brochosomes and their through-holes consistently fall within the range of hundreds of nanometers across different leafhopper species. Here, we demonstrate that the hierarchical geometries of brochosomes are engineered within a narrow size range with through-hole architecture to significantly reduce light reflection. By utilizing two-photon polymerization three-dimensional printing to fabricate high-fidelity synthetic brochosomes, we investigated the optical form-to-function relationship of brochosomes. Our results show that the diameters of brochosomes are engineered within a specific size range to maximize broadband light scattering, while the secondary through-holes are designed to function as short-wavelength, low-pass filters, further reducing light reflection. These synergistic effects enable brochosomes to achieve a substantial reduction in specular reflection, by up to approximately 80 to 94%, across a broadband wavelength range. Importantly, brochosomes represent a biological example demonstrating short-wavelength, low-pass filter functionality. Furthermore, our results indicate that the geometries of natural brochosomes may have evolved to effectively reduce reflection from ultraviolet to visible light, thereby enabling leafhoppers to evade predators whose vision spectrum encompasses both ultraviolet and visible light. Our findings offer key design insights into a class of deployable bioinspired optical materials with potential applications in omnidirectional antireflection coatings, optical encryption, and multispectral camouflage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2312700121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 2 2024

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