This Kobe University development enables non-fading structural colors that do not depend on the viewing angle and can be printed. The material has a low environmental and biological impact and can be applied extremely thinly, promising significant weight improvements over conventional paints.
An object has color when light of a specific wavelength is reflected. With traditional pigments, this happens by molecules absorbing other colors from white light, but over time this interaction makes the molecules degrade and the color fades. Structural colors, on the other hand, usually arise when light is reflected from parallel nanostructures set apart at just the right distance so that only light of certain wavelengths will survive while others are cancelled out, reflecting only the color we see. This phenomenon can be seen in wings of butterflies or feathers of peacocks, and has the advantage that the colors don't degrade.
Kobe University material engineers FUJII Minoru and SUGIMOTO Hiroshi have been developing an entirely new approach to producing colors. They explain, "In previous work since 2020, we were the first to achieve precise particle size control and develop colloidal suspensions of spherical and crystalline silicon nanoparticles. These single silicon nanoparticles scatter light in bright colors by the phenomenon of 'Mie resonance,' which allows us to develop structural color inks." With Mie resonance, spherical particles of a size comparable to the wavelength of light reflect specific wavelengths particularly strongly. This means that the color that mainly comes back from the suspension can be controlled simply by varying the size of the particles.