Bio-inspired structural colors produced via self-assembly of synthetic melanin nanoparticles

Ming Xiao, Yiwen Li, Michael C. Allen, Dimitri D. Deheyn, Xiujun Yue, Jiuzhou Zhao, Nathan C. Gianneschi*, Matthew D. Shawkey, Ali Dhinojwala

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


Structural colors arising from interactions of light with submicron scale periodic structures have been found in many species across all taxa, serving multiple biological functions including sexual signaling, camouflage, and aposematism. Directly inspired by the extensive use of self-assembled melanosomes to produce colors in avian feathers, we set out to synthesize and assemble polydopamine-based synthetic melanin nanoparticles in an effort to fabricate colored films. We have quantitatively demonstrated that synthetic melanin nanoparticles have a high refractive index and broad absorption spanning across the UV-visible range, similar to natural melanins. Utilizing a thin-film interference model, we demonstrated the coloration mechanism of deposited films and showed that the unique optical properties of synthetic melanin nanoparticles provide advantages for structural colors over other polymeric nanoparticles (i.e., polystyrene colloidal particles).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5454-5460
Number of pages7
JournalACS nano
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 26 2015


  • bio-inspired
  • biomimicry
  • melanin
  • polydopamine
  • structural colors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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