With a non-iridescent shade of their colour, which doesn’t change regardless of the angle you view it from, the blue tarantula represents a fascinating example of natural evolution. Furthermore, beyond being spectacular to look at, scientists and biomimicry designers now believe that the way in which the blue tarantula produces its near unique colour may have significant value in a range of human applications. A recent research breakthrough may mean that things like ‘tarantula blue textiles’ are not far away.
Understanding why these tarantulas have evolved in this way has been beyond the work of various research groups, but it has been learned that spiders evolved these blue colours using nano-structures in their exoskeletons. It is now also believed that this process could be replicated to create better monitors and screens, and perhaps even more intriguingly as a biological alternative to the pigments and colouring used in a wide range of material applications including metals, plastics, fibres and paper.
Created by optical effects when light passes through nanostructures of the right size, structural colours like those found in the blue tarantula are both more vibrant and durable than those found in human-made products, according to the research team. Other examples found in nature include the peacock’s tail feathers.
Commenting on the research, University of Akron professor Bor-Kai (Bill) Hsiung told Raw Story:
“This research is a ‘proof-of-concept’. Previously, no one ever thought non-iridescence can be achieved through highly order, periodic structures,” he answered. “Our research not only demonstrated it’s possible in theory (simulation), but doable (physical 3D printed prototypes). However, to be able to turn our research into real world commercialization products, we now need to consider the practicality (time & money). So, our next step is to show that these structures can be mass produced cheaply. And we already have some ideas about how to achieve that next step (i.e., we already identified potential techniques necessary for achieving that goal).”
Later in that same article, Mr. Hsiung made the bold prediction that tarantula blue t-shirts could be introduced into the commercial market in a space of just 5-10 years. That may be a bold prediction, but it’s important to emphasise that the scientific breakthrough made here opens up significant opportunities in terms of the design of a whole range of goods and could lead to a way of producing colour that doesn’t involve mixing toxic dyes with raw materials.
Read the full research findings here.
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