Pure Structural Color: Why the ‘brightest coloration on Earth’ could also be the way forward for eco-conscious artwork

Written by Eva Rothenberg, CNN

Artwork and science can appear two opposites on a spectrum. One is artistic and interpretive, the opposite actual and empirical. However an rising know-how often called Pure Structural Color — dubbed the “boldest, brightest coloration on Earth” in a brand new exhibition — exhibits how interaction between the 2 could also be revolutionary for each.

Pure Structural Color is produced from nanostructures — tiny particles that mirror and scatter gentle to duplicate the brightest hues present in nature. It was developed by Lifescaped, a lab and studio based by the scientist and artist Andrew Parker. This month, artworks incorporating the know-how have gone on public show for the primary time at “Naturally Good Colour,” an exhibition on the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London.

The gallery itself is darkish, with black partitions accentuating expressionist work by Parker himself. Some have been impressed by daylight and phenomena just like the Large Bang, whereas others imitate the colours and textures of flower petals and butterfly wings.

A kaleidoscopic artwork titled "Composition of Sunlight" by Lifescaped's Andrew Parker.

A kaleidoscopic art work titled “Composition of Daylight” by Lifescaped’s Andrew Parker. Credit score: Lifescaped

Elsewhere, panels bearing completely different hues of Pure Structural Color “shine like jewels,” in keeping with Paul Denton, head of customer packages and exhibitions at Kew Gardens. Additionally on show is a portray by artist Coral G. Visitor, who used the know-how to recreate the metallic sheen of pollia berries. There are examples of doable industrial functions, too, from a pair of Nike sneakers to sun shades and watches.

Artwork imitates life

Parker’s fascination with the colours present in nature started whereas finding out marine organisms in Australia within the 1990s. “If we have a look at the tiniest of coral reef creatures below the microscope, we are able to see essentially the most unbelievable colours, a lot brighter than pigments,” he stated in a cellphone interview. “And if you have a look at them below electron microscopes you may see the minute constructions that work together with gentle to supply these colours.”

The vivid hues of dwelling creatures are sometimes structural; they’re produced by microscopic cell constructions that may work together with gentle to create dazzling optic results. Usually, artists depend on intricate combos of pigments to painting the world round them, however utilizing Pure Structural Color could make it simpler to reproducing a wide range of coloration wavelengths, Parker stated.

An artwork inspired by the patterns and colors of nature.

An art work impressed by the patterns and colours of nature. Credit score: Roger Wooldridge/Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

“Colour is solely fashioned within the thoughts. There are solely waves of electromagnetic radiation passing throughout us, and we convert that to paint,” Parker stated. “Artwork and science are actually introduced collectively by coloration. Right here we’re utilizing physics with the intention to manipulate and refine the nuances of coloration we are able to produce.”

One of many ways in which Lifescaped has developed Pure Structural Color is within the type of tiny clear flakes. These might be combined with a biodegradable polymer and paint formulations to supply varied visible results, resembling intensely brilliant colours, iridescent colours that appear to alter when seen at completely different angles, and colours that seamlessly blends into each other.

“Reproducing the structural colours that we discover in nature is especially thrilling, as a result of we reap the benefits of the thousands and thousands of years of evolution in producing know-how that’s close to excellent at doing its job,” Parker defined in a video introduction to the exhibit.

Seeing inexperienced

Along with drawing inspiration from the pure world, Pure Structural Color invitations consciousness of the atmosphere in one other manner altogether: It’s much less dangerous to the planet than most dyes and pigments, in keeping with Parker.

Commercially accessible acrylics and oil paint are made up of tiny pigments. To make sure they will unfold evenly on a given floor, producers add chemical solvents, resins and different components that help the drying course of, Parker stated.

Lifescaped is developing a series of products using its Pure Structural Colour technology.

Lifescaped is growing a collection of merchandise utilizing its Pure Structural Color know-how. Credit score: Lifescaped

When these paints dry, they launch Unstable Natural Compounds (VOCs) resembling benzene, formaldehyde and acetone. The US Environmental Safety Company acknowledges paints and varnishes as sources of frequent hazardous air pollution, resembling toluene and methylene chloride. Each short- and long-term publicity to those chemical compounds could cause well being issues like beginning defects and cancers, in keeping with the CDC.
Past their affect on human well being, some commercially accessible paints are additionally dangerous for the atmosphere. A 2014 research commissioned by the Norwegian Surroundings Company discovered that particles from plastic-based paint, which is usually utilized to ship hulls and buildings, is the world’s second largest supply of microplastic air pollution.

In distinction, flakes of Pure Structural Color naturally diffuse and assemble evenly on surfaces, and thus do not require further chemical compounds, in keeping with Parker. Lifescaped’s colours are sometimes produced utilizing silicon dioxide, a biodegradable compound discovered organically in nature.

Parker stated the environmental implications of the know-how are, probably, game-changing. In addition to decreasing reliance on poisonous polluting paints, the nanostructures’ skill to kind a particularly skinny steady floor might assist scale back carbon emissions.

Panels of Pure Structural Colour that imitate the shades of butterfly wings on display at London's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Panels of Pure Structural Color that imitate the shades of butterfly wings on show at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Credit score: Roger Wooldridge/Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

“The paint itself is light-weight, so it lends itself nicely to industrial merchandise,” he stated. “For instance, when you substitute the paints used to cowl a jumbo jet with a structural coloration, you’d be saving about one ton in weight, which is sort of important for gas prices.”

Whereas Pure Structural Color will not be but commercially accessible, the Lifescaped lab is working with varied corporations to fabricate paints on the market, and hopes to have some accessible “throughout the subsequent 12 months,” Parker stated.

Parker’s mission stretches past the know-how’s industrial potential, nevertheless. The scientist and artist stated he needs guests to go away the exhibition pondering extra critically in regards to the energy of nature and the way a lot people can be taught from it.

“Nature is of such worth, and we have to do extra to guard it,” Parker stated. “There are such a lot of different issues we are able to be taught by seeking to nature. With a bit extra effort we are able to provide you with much more sustainable options sooner or later.”

Naturally Good Color” is on at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, till September 26, 2021.

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