Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

July 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

Scientists develop new theory of molecular evolution

October 23, 2017

Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University College London have developed a new theory of molecular evolution, offering insights into how genes function, how the rates of evolutionary ...

Austrian researchers facilitate lipid data analysis

October 23, 2017

No lipids, no life. In all organisms, lipids form cell walls, store energy and release it when necessary, and play an important role in cell signalling. It has been proved that changes in the composition of lipids play a ...

Close up view of growing polymer chain show jump steps

October 20, 2017

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers at Cornell University has devised a means for watching as a polymer chain grows after application of a catalyst. In their paper published in the journal Science, the team explains how they ...

0 comments

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.