Inspired by Nature

Structural Color

One of the beautiful treasures we can experience in the summer while being outside is a wide variety of butterflies flying around. Did you know that the beautiful colors of their wings often arise not through pigments but through a phenomenon called structural color?

To make a colored material, usually, dye or pigment is used. Another way nature creates color is with a nanostructure that reflects or scatters light so that waves of specific frequencies can constructively interfere. These nanostructured materials are said to have structural color

Structural coloration is created not by pigments but through the physical structure of materials at the microscopic or nanoscopic level. This phenomenon occurs when light interacts with these delicate structures, causing scattering, interference, diffraction, or refraction. As a result, specific wavelengths of light are amplified while others are diminished, creating vivid, sometimes iridescent colors that can change with the viewer’s perspective or the angle of illumination. Unlike pigment-based colors, which derive from chemical properties that absorb certain wavelengths of light, structural colors depend entirely on the geometry and arrangement of the structures with which light interacts, making them exceptionally vibrant and durable over time.

Structural coloration is a remarkable natural phenomenon that not only adds to the beauty of the natural world but also provides a blueprint for sustainable and innovative technologies. By understanding and harnessing the principles behind structural colors, we can develop materials and products that are vibrant, durable, and environmentally friendly. Unlike traditional color, which comes from dyes or pigments that absorb light, structural color can be made resistant to fading.

Imagine

imagine what that could mean; if we could mimic this natural strategy, we could significantly reduce the number of toxic dyes and pigments and have the most beautiful colors. Some companies are already adapting the principle.

APPLICATION IDEAS:

  • Color-changing Materials: Researchers are developing materials that change color based on their structure. Such materials could, for example, be used in fashion, security printing, and sensors.
  • Anti-counterfeiting Technologies: The nature of structural colors makes them ideal for anti-counterfeiting measures in currency and identity documents, which are only possible with specific knowledge and technology.
  • Energy-efficient Displays: Structural colors have the potential to be used in creating more energy-efficient displays for electronic devices, relying on the manipulation of light at the microscale rather than the emission of light from pigments.

Be inspired by some examples of beautiful structural colors:

Structural color butterfly wing
butterfly wing
Pollia Condensata Structural Color
pollia condensata "marple berry"
Peacock feather structural color
peacock feather
Structural Color Blue and Yellow Macaw feather
blue and yellow macaw

Image sources: Butterfly Wing, Macaw, Peacock feather: David Clode@Unsplash, Marple Berry: Wikipedia

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