Biological and bio-inspired optics Faraday Discussion

20 - 22 July 2020, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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Join us in Cambridge in July 2020 for this addition to our Faraday Discussion series. For over 100 years and 300 meetings, Faraday Discussions have been the forefront of physical chemistry. Many of these Discussions have become landmark meetings in their field. 

We invite you to join us to discuss the topic of Biological and bio-inspired optics and make your contribution to this cutting-edge dialogue alongside leaders in this field.

This meeting is for established scientists, post-graduate students and industrial researchers interested in nature’s light manipulation strategies . Given the recent developments in this field, the unique format of the Faraday Discussions will allow for in-depth discussions and opportunities to establish new collaborations.

On behalf of our committee, we look forward to welcoming you to Cambridge.

Silvia Vignolini

Format of the Discussion

Faraday Discussions remain amongst the only conferences to distribute the speakers’ research papers in advance, allowing the majority of each meeting to be devoted to discussion in which all delegates can participate.  Following each meeting a written record of the discussion is published alongside the papers in the Faraday Discussions journal.
Find out more about the Faraday Discussions in this video:

Scientific Themes

Over the last decade, an increasingly advanced understanding of nature’s light manipulation strategies has allowed scientists and engineers to design novel biologically inspired photonic materials for a wide range of applications. Recent research efforts have uncovered a truly astounding diversity of biological light management mechanisms that rely on various photonic structures, and there is much to be learnt from biological photonic structures for the design of advanced optical materials. Biological optical materials often create desirable synergies between quantum-optical, wave-optical, and ray-optical phenomena through a fine control of material structure and composition across all relevant length scales. Deciphering the origin of such synergies will allow scientists to emulate and improve upon them to solve challenges in optical technology development.
This Faraday Discussion will focus on the most recent developments in this exciting and rapidly evolving field. We will assess what we currently know about nature’s most intriguing light management techniques and review strategies for deriving advantages from this knowledge in bio-inspired materials. More importantly, we will also aim to identify current challenges and opportunities and derive a recommendation of how our field could be moving forward in the years to come. As this topic is very interdisciplinary, with connections spanning from biology and materials science to chemistry and physics, the unique format of the Faraday Discussion will provide a great platform for exchange between the different disciplines and facilitate novel collaborations.
The Faraday Discussion will be orgainsed into the following themes:
Optics and photonics in nature

Over the last decade as a community we have learned a lot about the fundamental principles underlying light-matter interactions in biological optical materials. However, many questions remain pertaining to the materials’ development, function, and compromises made by organisms to enable multiple functions. In this session, we want to explore these open questions and outline strategies to answer them.
Bio-inspired optics
In parallel with and fuelled by a deeper understanding of the working principles of biological photonic materials, significant progress in emulating and exceeding nature’s light management abilities in a broad range of bio-inspired photonic materials has been made. In this session, we aim to provide an overview of the recent progress in bio-inspired materials design. We aim to have a critical discussion of representative examples of optical and photonic components that have been inspired by living organisms. In addition, we will stimulate a critical and constructive discussion about the true meaning of the term “bio-inspiration” that is often misused in the literature.
The role of structure: order vs disorder in bio-photonic systems
It has been known for a long time that regular nano- and microscale structures are required to create optical effects such as bright colourful reflections and iridescence. In recent years however, the role of order and disorder in photonic systems and its implication for functionality has gained increasing attention. We now know that many biological photonic systems are tolerant toward a certain amount of disorder and even might rely on it to achieve a desired optical functionality. In this session, we will stimulate a discussion on concepts of controlling order and disorder in biological and bio-inspired photonic materials, on the importance of structural tolerances in achieving specific optical effects, and on advantages that can be gained from exploiting disorder and randomness in photonic structures for advanced materials design.
The role of composition: natural materials vs synthetic composites
Many of the proposed strategies to form bio-inspired photonic materials rely entirely on synthetic materials. However, an increasing amount of effort is dedicated to employing biological or bio-derived materials in optical device design. Fabricating photonic structures from natural materials could allow us to answer fundamental questions about the biological processes at work when such structures are assembled. Furthermore, this approach provides a sustainable and renewable route for optical device fabrication. In this session, we will review recent progress in optical design using natural materials and discuss their properties and functions and the challenges that we need to address to make such materials a common staple in the optical engineer’s toolbox.


The Royal Society of Chemistry is keen to encourage and enable as many people as possible to attend our events, to benefit from the networking opportunities and the chance to hear talks from leaders in the field. If you would like to discuss accessibility, or have childcare, caring responsibilities or other care needs, please contact us to discuss your requirements so that we can enable your attendance. Please refer also to our Grants for carers fund, for more information please see the ‘bursaries’ section on this page.
Abstract Submission

Oral Abstracts

A full research paper containing new unpublished results always accompanies oral presentations at Faraday Discussions. Submit an oral/paper abstract by 18 November 2019 if you wish to be considered for an oral presentation and associated published paper. The oral/paper abstract should outline current research in progress. Authors of the selected abstracts must then submit a full research paper with a significant amount of new, unpublished work by 2 March 2020

The research papers are reviewed upon submission and are sent to all delegates 4 weeks before the meeting so they can be read in advance. At the meeting the presenting author is allowed five minutes to highlight the main points of their paper, and the rest of the time is for discussion. The discussion is recorded and will be published alongside the research paper in the Faraday Discussion Volume. 

Poster Abstracts

Submit your poster abstract by 11 May 2020. Posters are displayed throughout the meeting. The Faraday Division Poster Prize will be awarded to the best poster presented by a student at the conference.  

Additional Information

Authors will be notified of the outcome of the review process within about 6 weeks of the submission deadline. The abstracts should be no longer than one A4 page in portrait layout. Please ensure you provide the details of the presenting author and indicate whether you are submitting an abstract for oral or poster presentation. 
Please read the registration information before registering.  You can register by clicking on the online registration link on this page.  Please note accommodation is not included in the registration fee.
For non-member registrants attending this event, affiliate membership of the Royal Society of Chemistry is available until the end of 2021, the affiliate membership application will be processed and commence once the registrant has attended the event.

Registration includes:
  • Attendance at the sessions
  • Refreshments throughout the meeting
  • Lunch on all 3 days
  • Attendance at the poster drinks reception on Monday 20 July
  • Attendance at the conference dinner on Tuesday 21 July
  • Electronic access to the discussion pre-prints
  • A copy of the final theme issue of Faraday Discussion Volume containing papers presented at the Discussion (issued approximately 6 months after the meeting)**
Regsitration fees are as follows:
Early Bird
(by 1 June 2020)
(by 22 June 2020)
Members* £304.17 £350
Non-members £395.83 £441.67
Student Members* £145.83 £191.67
Student Non-members £170.83 £216.67
Prices above do not include VAT. This will be added during registration at the prevailing rate.

* If you are an Royal Society of Chemistry member and wish to register for this meeting, please select the member option on the online registration page. You will need to enter your membership number.

**Excluding students, who can order the volume at a reduced price at the conference.  

Student Delegates

In order to encourage undergraduate or postgraduate students to attend the Discussion, a reduced conference fee (to include a set of pre-prints but not the final Discussion Volume) is available. This fee applies to those undertaking a full time course for a recognised degree or a diploma at a university or equivalent institution.

A copy of the publication may be purchased at less than half price, only for orders placed at the meeting where an application form will be made available.  

Conference Dinner

The conference dinner on Tuesday 21 July is included in the regsitration fee.  
Book now

Terms and Conditions for Events run by the Royal Society of Chemistry

We have two types of grants available to attend this meeting: 
  • A limited number of non-competitive travel grants of up to £200 are available for PhD students and early career scientists. These are assigned on a first come, first served basis.  Applicants must be Royal Society of Chemistry members of any level at the time of making their applicatio
  • Competitive grants of up to £800 are available to assist with international travel expenses for PhD students, postdocs within 10 years of completing their PhD and early career scientists (including technicians and industrialists) within 10 years of leaving full time education. In addition, applicants must be Royal Society of Chemistry members of any level at the time of making their application. 
To take advantage of the competitive grants and many other benefits, become a member. Follow the link on the right hand side to find out more and join today!

Applications for either grant should be submitted as early as possible.

Please see respective terms & conditions for full eligibility information.

Grants for Carers

Grants for carers have been introduced following the Royal Society of Chemistry Breaking the barriers report where 78% of chemists working in UK academia felt that managing parenting and/or caring responsibilities has an impact on women’s retention and progression. This fund is not limited to women scientists and welcomes applications from anyone with caring responsibilities. These grants have been supported by The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemists’ Community Fund.

You can apply for up to a maximum of £1000/year to assist with additional financial costs that you incur for care usually provided by you whilst you attend a chemistry related meeting, conference or workshop or a professional development event.

Caring responsibilities are wide and varied, and so each application will be individually assessed, examples of applications that we will consider include:
  • paying for extra home help or nursing care for a dependent whilst you will not be present
  • additional medical/respite care for a dependent whilst you will not be present
  • travel expenses for a relative to travel with you to care for dependents whilst you attend a meeting or event
  • paying for extended hours with a care worker/childminder/play scheme to cover time when you will arrive home later than normal.
You are eligible to apply if: 
  • you are a chemist
  • you will incur additional caring expenses whilst attending a chemistry-related meeting, conference, event or workshop or a professional development event
  • you will use these funds to cover the cost of care that you usually provide 
  • you are based in the UK or Ireland or if not, you will normally have held three years RSC membership (past or current).
Sponsorship & supporting organisations
A selection of sponsorship opportunities is available for companies who would like to promote their activities at Biological and bio-inspired optics Faraday Discussion 

As well as booking a table top exhibition space, there are opportunities to sponsor social events, advertise in the abstract book or place a promotional item in delegate packs. For further information and prices please download the sponsorship menu from this page.

Please note that exhibition spaces are limited, spaces will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

If you would like more information about sponsoring Biological and bio-inspired optics Faraday Discussion , please contact the Commercial Sales Department at the Royal Society of Chemistry (  Sponsorship Menu
Downing College

Downing College, University of Cambridge, Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1DQ, United Kingdom

There are a limited number of rooms available to book on site direct with Downing College, £114 per night (single en-suite B&B) please follow these instructions:
  • Enter the Promotional Code: RSCJULY
  • Click on the calendar on the right and scroll right to July 2020
  • Clicking on both the arrival (from 19th) and departure (latest 23rd) to highlight the days and click ‘Next’
  • Enter the number of people staying aged 21 or over and click ‘Check availability’
  • The room availability will then show at the bottom of the screen
  • Select the number of rooms required from the drop down and click ‘Next’
  • Review booking (if wrong click red trash bin in top corner). Click ‘Next’
  • Click blue box in middle of screen “Checkout as guest”

  • Silvia Vignolini (Chair) University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Leila Deravi Northeastern University, United States
  • Mathias Kolle Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
  • Ling Li Virginia Tech, United States
  • Bodo Wilts University of Fribourg, Switzerland

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Organised by the Faraday Division in association with the Materials Chemistry Division
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