Nanostructures and Optics – Nanophotonics in Nature

List of members


Internships and jobs






  • Permanent members : Serge Berthier, Edgar Attivissimo, Willy Daney de Marcillac
  • Emeritus Researcher scientist : Jacques Lafait
  • Fixed-term contract : Edgar Attivissimo
  • Invited member : Doris Gomez (CEFE)


For several years, our group has been working on the study of natural photonic structures. These structures have been developed in a different context than man-made structures – that of natural selection – and their study opens the way to new theoretical and experimental approaches and to a new vision of the development of an industrial product.

Indeed, when developing optical devices (such as photovoltaic or solar thermal panels, lighting surfaces, colored coatings, etc.), the main focus is primarily on the light flow management problem that needs to be optimized. But with such systems, it is often necessary to meet many other constraints. This requires knowledge and know-how in many fields of physics, other than optics or materials, (chemistry, engineering, thermics, tribology…) and often leads to complex solutions that strongly affect the main function. This approach is the opposite of that of nature. Natural structures are built on three fundamental principles:

  • They are multifunctional
  • Their architecture is complex and generally multi-scale
  • They are developed from a very small number of components, and all these parameters are optimized.


Thus, the core of our work is the development of bio-inspired photonic and multifunctional structures. They are then oriented towards the transposition of natural approaches – both the concepts (disorder, multifunctionality…) and the structures themselves (Figure) – to the development of nanostructures for various purposes: renewable energy, mainly solar, color effects, detection structures, transparent or anti-reflection structures…

Figure : Transfer of a super hydrophobic photonic nanostructure (scale of Papilio Ulysse) on a glass pane.


These works are therefore divided along three axes:

  • Reproduction of natural structured surfaces by sol-gel and physical (PVD) methods.
  • Modeling and Visualization of optical effects, characterization of disordered effects.
  • Search for new structures and new effects on thermo chromic and hygrochromic structures, hydrophobic photonic structures, absorbing/emitting structures, anti-abrasive photonic structures, molecules detectors…



  • Jacques Livage (CMCP)
  • Marianne Elias Institut de Systématique, Évolution, Biodiversité,(CNRS-MNHN)
  • Pascal Jean Lopez, Laboratoire de Biologie des Organismes et ecosystème aquatiques (BOREA)
  • Christophe Moulherat, Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac
  • Chanel
  • CEBIOS (Centre d’excellence en Bio-inspiration de Senlis)



  • ANR Clearwing
  • HFSP Grant (Transparency)



  • Serge Berthier, Bernd Schöllhorn, Willy de Marcillac, Nguyen Thi Phuong Lien, Camille Aracheloff. Exceptional Fluorescence Properties of Oriental Paper Wasp Nests” (2021) Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Accepté.
  • Doris Gomez, Charline Pinna, Jonathan Pairraire, Monica Arias, Jérôme Barbut, et al.. Transparency in butterflies and moths: structural diversity, optical properties and ecological relevance. 2020. ⟨hal-03012533⟩
  • Mónica Arias, Marianne Elias, Christine Andraud, Serge Berthier, Doris Gomez. Transparency improves concealment in cryptically coloured moths. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Wiley, 2020, 33 (2), pp.247-252. ⟨10.1111/jeb.13560⟩. ⟨hal-02346924⟩Magali Thomé, Elodie Richalot, Serge Berthier. Light guidance in photonic structures of Morpho butterfly wing scales. Applied physics. A, Materials science & processing, Springer Verlag, 2020, 126 (10), ⟨10.1007/s00339-020-03948-x⟩. ⟨hal-03098652⟩
  • A. Gibaud, J. Villanova, O. Cherkas, A. Bulou, L. Kamtcheu Ouanssi, et al.. Analysis of diatoms by holotomography. Surfaces and Interfaces, Elsevier, 2019, 17, pp.100358. ⟨10.1016/j.surfin.2019.100358⟩. ⟨hal-02340161⟩
  • Hugo Gruson, Marianne Elias, Juan Parra, Christine Andraud, Serge Berthier, et al.. Distribution of iridescent colours in hummingbird communities results from the interplay between selection for camouflage and communication. 2020. ⟨hal-02372238v2⟩
  • Melanie Mcclure, Corentin Clerc, Charlotte Desbois, Aimilia Meichanetzoglou, Marion Cau, et al.. Why has transparency evolved in aposematic butterflies? Insights from the largest radiation of aposematic butterflies, the Ithomiini. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Royal Society, The, 2019, 286 (1901), pp.20182769. ⟨10.1098/rspb.2018.2769⟩. ⟨hal-02135513⟩
  • Hugo Gruson, Christine Andraud, Willy Daney de Marcillac, Serge Berthier, Marianne Elias, et al.. Quantitative characterization of iridescent colours in biological studies: a novel method using optical theory. Interface Focus, Royal Society publishing, 2019, Living light: optics, ecology and design principles of natural photonic structures, 9 (1), pp.20180049. ⟨10.1098/rsfs.2018.0049⟩. ⟨hal-01961448v2⟩
  • Ali Mcheik, Sophie Cassaignon, Jacques Livage, Alain Gibaud, Serge Berthier, et al.. Optical Properties of Nanostructured Silica Structures From Marine Organisms. Frontiers in Marine Science, Frontiers Media, 2018, 5, ⟨10.3389/fmars.2018.00123⟩. ⟨hal-01904909⟩