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Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

Date:
July 30, 2014
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
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 method uses structure -- or the shapes and architectures of materials -- rather than dyes, to produce colors.

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.

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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 waste stream 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jeppe S. Clausen, Emil Hψjlund-Nielsen, Alexander B. Christiansen, Sadegh Yazdi, Meir Grajower, Hesham Taha, Uriel Levy, Anders Kristensen, N. Asger Mortensen. Plasmonic Metasurfaces for Coloration of Plastic Consumer Products. Nano Letters, 2014; 140708095444001 DOI: 10.1021/nl5014986

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140730104142.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2014, July 30). Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140730104142.htm
American Chemical Society. "Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140730104142.htm (accessed February 28, 2015).

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