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Home > Press > 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
A new kind of coating developed by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) gives plastic its color without the dyes.

Credit: American Chemical Society

Abstract:
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.

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

Washington, DC | Posted on July 30th, 2014

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.

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The authors acknowledge funding from the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation, the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation and the European Commission.

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About American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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Contacts:
Michael Bernstein

202-872-6042

Anders Kristensen, Ph.D.
Department of Micro and Nanotechnology
Technical University of Denmark
DK-2800 Kongens Lyngby
Denmark

or
N. Asger Mortensen, Ph.D.
Department of Photonics Engineering
Technical University of Denmark
DK-2800 Kongens Lyngby
Denmark

Copyright © American Chemical Society

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