The brilliant colors on the wings of many butterflies and some bird feathers, such as peacocks, are not, in fact, due to any actual pigment in the wing material itself. Instead, color is created through the prism-like, crystalline structure of the surface. The light is split into its various bands of color and reflected to the eye of the observer, in much the same way as the perception of a rainbow.
Qualcomm, a publically traded wireless technology company, copied the butterfly effect in its Mirasol and IMod displays. The same layered structures that give a butterfly’s wings such vibrancy were used to create an “always on” effect without draining energy for backlighting.
Because these screens rely on ambient light rather than illumination, colors intensify outdoors, unlike traditional screens that are washed out by daylight. Since the screens don’t generate light, they also require about 90 percent less power to operate. If the technology were applied to plasma television screens, for example, which use about 400 watts to run, a Mirasol screen would potentially use only 40 watts. Mirasol technology has already been applied to cellular phones and other user interface devices.
The Spider’s Reflective Web