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Journal of Nanomaterials
Volume 2014, Article ID 878409, 15 pages
Review Article

Nanostructural Colouration in Malaysian Plants: Lessons for Biomimetics and Biomaterials

1Institute of Microengineering and Nanoelectronics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), 43600 Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia
2Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3Institute of Applied Physics, Vienna University of Technology, Wiedner Hauptstraβe 8-10/134, 1040 Vienna, Austria

Received 3 September 2013; Revised 10 February 2014; Accepted 10 February 2014; Published 14 April 2014

Academic Editor: Il-Kwon Oh

Copyright © 2014 S. Zaleha M. Diah et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Plant tissues include leaves, flower petals, and fruits. These can provide us with variety of design inspirations. Biomimetics allows us to learn from nature and transfer the knowledge we gain from studying sophisticated and amazing biological structures, materials and processes to engineering and the arts. The microstructures of morphology and anatomy of plant tissue have potential applications in technology through bioinspired design, which can mimic the properties found in nature or use them as inspiration for alternative applications. Many applications have been developed as a result of studying physical properties of plant tissues. Structural colours, for example, have been applied in the design of thin films both with regard to single or multilayer thin film interference, scattering, and diffraction gratings. Iridescent, metallic, or greyish colouration found naturally in plants is the result of physical structures or physical effects and not pigmentation. Phenotypical appearance of plants with structural colouration in tropical Malaysia is correlated with environmental parameters such as location (shady understory rainforest, sunny conditions) and altitude (highlands, lowlands). Various examples of bioinspired technical innovations with structural colours highlight the importance of inspiration by structural colours in living nature.