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Insect Eyes Inspire Coating Technology

Monday, December 19, 2016

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Reflective coatings already have safety-boosting applications ranging from road paint to coated bicycles, but now researchers are looking at new reflective technology that could help keep buildings cool. And according to the American Chemical Society, the inspiration behind the new developments came from bug eyes.

Reflectance and Color

Retroreflective materials, including some tapes and road paints, work by bouncing light back toward the original source, such as a car’s headlights, making them bright and easy to see, ACS explains.

Insect eyes
© iStock.com / lauriek

Researchers found they were able to address the limitations of retroreflectors in coatings by mimicking the compound eyes of insects.

These retroreflectors usually incorporate glass microbeads and microprisms. While dyes, pigments or plastic layers may be added for color, ACS notes, the materials also tend to reduce the reflection of light, and the colors can fade over time.

Hongta Yang and his colleagues from National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan, found they were able to address these limitations by mimicking the compound eyes of insects.

By evenly coating an array of glass microspheres with smaller balls of silica, the researchers reportedly created a brilliantly colored, retroreflective material.

Bug eye structure inspires reflective coatings improvements
American Chemical Society

Scientists at National Chung Hsing University turned to the structure of bug eyes (top) to develop bright, vividly colored reflective materials (bottom), the American Chemical Society reports.

Changing the size of the silica crystals, they say, adjusts the color; adding layers will boost brightness.

At 250 nanometers and 40 layers deep, the crystals appeared bright green and reflected more light than commercial coatings with no color, they explained.

Additional Functions

The coatings may find use in applications beyond boosting the brightness of objects for safety reasons. Because they reflect rather than absorb light, the material could be applied to buildings to reduce the urban heat-island effect, the scientists say.

Their report, “Self-Assembled Hierarchical Arrays for Colored Retroreflective Coatings,” appears in the ACS journal Langmuir.

The research was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Republic of China.

   

Tagged categories: American Chemical Society; Coating chemistry; Coatings; Colleges and Universities; Color retention; Reflective coatings; Research and development

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