Polarisers could be improved upon by taking inspiration from the communication of shrimps

Shrimps unlock better polarisers for optical devices

Polarisers, which are optical devices widely used in cameras, DVD players and sunglasses, could be improved upon by emulating natural light reflectors found on shrimps.

A study by the University of Bristol into how animals secretly communicate has led to the discovery of a new way to polarise light.

Mantis shrimps typically communicate with each other using the polarisation of light in order to avoid predators because it is silent and cannot be seen by most organisms.

The shrimps have evolved bright reflectors that control the polarisation of their visual signals, a property of light not commonly used for animal communication.

In an attempt to understand how these light signals are produced in mantis shrimp, researchers from the University of Bristol discovered that they use a polarising structure unlike anything ever seen or developed by humans.

Using a combination of careful anatomy, light measurements, and theoretical modelling, it was found that the mantis shrimp polarisers work by manipulating light across the structure rather than through its depth, which is how typical polarisers work.

Such a photonic mechanism affords the animal with small, microscopically thin and dynamic optical structures that still produce big, bright and colourful polarised signals.

The University’s Dr Nicholas Roberts said: "When it comes to developing a new way to make polarisers, nature has come up with optical solutions we haven't yet thought of.

"Industries working on optical technologies will be interested in this new solution mantis shrimp have found to create a polariser as new ways for humans to use and control light are developed."

The project is not the first time that scientists have taken inspiration from nature for technological purposes.

Scientists at University of California Berkeley recently unveiled a miniature robot that can squeeze itself into tiny gaps to find disaster victims by emulating the body structure of a cockroach.

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