Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Visit the TPC Store
Search the site




Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Team Focuses on Coating Color Changes

Monday, November 28, 2016

Comment | More

New coatings could produce a range of colors based on nanostructures rather than pigments, says a group of researchers at work on a thin, scratch-resistant coating they say “could be a real revolution.”

The team, led by Harvard University’s Henning Galinski and including researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) and ETH Zurich (Switzerland), released its findings in the journal Light: Science & Applications.

Plum Throated Cotinga
© Dušan M. Brinkhuizen via Cornell Lab of Ornithology Neotropical Birds Online

Structural coloration is how we see color in some plant materials, insects, and birds like the plum-throated cotinga (pictured), which served as an inspiration for the researchers on the coating project.

It’s not the first research foray into color-changing coatings, or the underpinning idea, which is called structural coloration, but the team says it’s a major step toward scalable versions of the technology, which could have applications from buildings to cars and airplanes.

Structural Coloration

The idea of structural coloration involves biological nanostructures that allow seemingly colorless materials to reflect light in ways that create a colorful appearance—that is, color that’s in the structure itself, rather than a pigment or dye. It’s how we see color in some plant materials, insects, and birds like peacocks or the plum-throated cotinga, which served as an inspiration for the researchers on the coating project.

The new development, according to King Abdullah University, involves spraying a platinum-aluminum alloy onto the substrate, then “dealloying,” removing most of the aluminum and ultimately combining “dealloyed subwavelength structures at the nanoscale with loss-less, ultra-thin dielectrics coatings.”

Sapphire Controls Hue

The coating starts out transparent. Then, an ultra-thin layer of sapphire is infused into the coating. Sapphire is an especially hard mineral, already used in glass to make scratch-resistant windows and screens for electronics. The sapphire lends hardness and abrasion-resistance to the coated surface, and also engenders the color-shifting abilities of the coating.

The thickness of the sapphire determines the color the coating takes on, because the sapphire particles fill “nanopores” in the coating in different ways at different thicknesses. Changing the thickness of the layer at the nano scale can generate any desired color, and because the coloration is part of the material structure, it won’t fade.

'Programmed' Color

Unlike recent developments in coatings that could change color on demand, the coating isn’t ever-changing. It can, however, be tailored to any color needed, without pigments or additives; the color can be “programmed” into the coating as it is applied, meaning one batch of coating material could create any number of colors using the same process.

Because the coating is thin, durable and can produce any color on demand, it could be used for architectural applications and beyond. The researchers say the technology could find a place in the automotive recoat industry, or even aerospace coatings.


Tagged categories: Aerospace; Automotive coatings; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; Color; Fade-Resistant Color; Nanotechnology; Research

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Jotun Paints Inc.
Jotun Jotachar 1709
Mesh-free passive fire protection epoxy designed to protect against hydrocarbon pool fire scenarios for up to four hours as defined in the ANSI/UL1709 standard.

Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America
Performance Amine 1,3-BAC
A highly reactive cycloaliphatic diamine offering superior performance. Reasonable cost and curing efficacy makes it suitable for all types of epoxy resin applications.

SAFE Systems, Inc.
Portable Blast &
Recovery Equipment
Trailer or skid mounted blast and recovery equipment. Systems designed for maximum versatility, environmental compliance
and overall cost savings.
Call 1-800-634-7278

SABRE Autonomous Solutions
SABRE - the future of automated blasting
At SABRE we specialise in developing autonomous robotic solutions for hazardous and difficult to reach environments.

HoldTight Solutions Inc.
Clean surfaces simply don’t rust, and no other product cleans like HoldTight®102.
HoldTight®102 is a wet blasting additive that decreases the water’s surface tension, allowing it to get into the profile of the surface and remove ALL contamination, including salts, acids, abrasives, light oils, and greases. HoldTight®102 leaves behind no film and evaporates with the water, providing a surface that is thoroughly clean and ready for coating, rust-free for up to 72 hours.

Tarps manufacturing, Inc.
QUALITY MADE IN AMERICA —Available near you!
CLICK to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Tarps Manufacturing makes the highest-quality tarps right here in the USA — available nationwide.

ARC / A.W. Chesterton Company
Erosion Resistant Coating
It’s high gloss low drag, abrasion resistant surface extends equipment life, improves material flow, enhances equipment efficiency, and reduces downtime.

New resins from BASF will have metals loving water!
Excellent corrosion resistance, low VOC, high gloss, thin films 800-231-7868

Carboline Company
New product: Carbozinc® 608 HB
Introducing a new high build zinc-rich primer that can save you time and money by eliminating the epoxy intermediate coat!

US Minerals
Hit Harder. Clean Faster.
Learn more at


Technology Publishing Co., 1501 Reedsdale Street, Suite 2008, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL

The Technology Publishing Network

Durability + Design PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy Policy   |   Terms & Conditions   |   Support   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us