Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

Jul 30, 2014
Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics
A new kind of coating developed by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) gives plastic its color without the dyes. Credit: American Chemical Society

Long before humans figured out how to create colors, nature had already perfected the process—think stunning, bright butterfly wings of many different hues, for example. Now scientists are tapping into those secrets to develop a more environmentally friendly way to make colored plastics. Their paper on using structure—or the shapes and architectures of materials—rather than dyes, to produce color appears in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

N. Asger Mortensen, Anders Kristensen and colleagues point out that currently, plastic manufacturers add pigments to their products. That gives them the range of colors customers have come to expect in everything from toys to tools. But these additional ingredients add to the growing of plastics manufacturing and make it difficult to recycle products. To come up with a more eco-friendly alternative, Mortensen's team turned to highly advanced materials that can be made to appear in different colors—purely by designing their surface structures at the nanoscopic level.

They layered materials, including ultrathin, nano-sized aluminum disks, in a way that manipulates light and creates a new kind of colored surface. To protect it from damage, the scientists topped it off with a scratch-resistant film. Using this method, they created a wide spectrum of colors that could be added to plastics.

Explore further: Researchers use aluminum nanostructures for photorealistic printing of plasmonic color palettes

More information: Nano Lett., Article ASAP: DOI: 10.1021/nl5014986

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Novel catalyst used to make styrene in one step

9 hours ago

(Phys.org)—Styrene is an important industrial chemical. It is the precursor to polystyrene which is used in various every day plastic products, like disposable cups, packaging, and insulation. Over 18.5m ...

Chemists create self-healing, luminescent wonder gels

10 hours ago

Chemists from Trinity College Dublin followed their own unique recipe to cook up a breakthrough that could have significant applications in skin graft operations and in protecting valuable electronics and ...

For batteries, one material does it all

May 04, 2015

Engineers at the University of Maryland have created a battery that is made entirely out of one material, which can both move electricity and store it.

Wood-polymer composite furniture with low flammability

May 04, 2015

Wood is a popular material in interior design, but its water absorbency limits its use in bathrooms, where natural wood easily becomes discolored or moldy. Fraunhofer scientists and partners have developed ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.