Iridescence from Total Internal Reflection at 3D Microscale Interfaces: Mechanistic Insights and Spectral Analysis

Nathaniel E. Sturniolo, Krista Hirsch, Caleb H. Meredith, Beau C. Beshires, Shawn Khanna, Malak S. Rayes, Michael A. Gallegos, Shannon McGee, Bryan Kaehr, Lauren D. Zarzar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


An experimental investigation and the optical modeling of the structural coloration produced from total internal reflection interference within 3D microstructures are described. Ray-tracing simulations coupled with color visualization and spectral analysis techniques are used to model, examine, and rationalize the iridescence generated for a range of microgeometries, including hemicylinders and truncated hemispheres, under varying illumination conditions. An approach to deconstruct the observed iridescence and complex far-field spectral features into its elementary components and systematically link them to ray trajectories that emanate from the illuminated microstructures is demonstrated. The results are compared with experiments, wherein microstructures are fabricated with methods such as chemical etching, multiphoton lithography, and grayscale lithography. Microstructure arrays patterned on surfaces with varying orientation and size lead to unique color-traveling optical effects and highlight opportunities for how total internal reflection interference can be used to create customizable reflective iridescence. The findings herein provide a robust conceptual framework for rationalizing this multibounce interference mechanism and establish approaches for characterizing and tailoring the optical and iridescent properties of microstructured surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvanced Materials
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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