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Sustainable Paint Uses Recycled Plastic

Thursday, September 5, 2019

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In collaboration with global coatings firm AkzoNobel (Amsterdam), the University of Sheffield (Sheffield, United Kingdom) has reported that its researchers have successfully mimicked the color of the Cyphochilus beetle’s scales, one the brightest known whites in nature.

The Research

According to a news release from the university, Andrew Parnell, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, led the research project using a technique called X-ray tomography—which is similar to a CT scan but on a miniscule scale—located at the X-ray imaging facilities at the instrument ID16B at the European Synchrotron Research Facility in Grenoble, France.

University of Sheffield

In collaboration with global coatings firm AkzoNobel, the University of Sheffield has reported that its researchers have successfully mimicked the color of the Cyphochilus beetle’s scales, one the brightest known whites in nature.

In using the intensive X-ray technology at the ESRF, researchers could measure whole intact scales, creating a better understanding of the scales themselves and how they scatter light.

“In the natural world, whiteness is usually created by a foamy, Swiss cheese-like structure made of a solid interconnected network and air,” said Parnell.

“Until now, how these structures form and develop and how they have evolved light-scattering properties has remained a mystery. Having understood these structures we were able to take plastic and structure it in the same way. Ideally, we could recycle plastic waste that would normally be burnt or sent to landfill, structure it just like the beetle scale and then use it to make super white paint. This would make paint with a much lower carbon footprint and help tackle the challenge of recycling single-use plastics.”

Traditionally, conventional white paint contains nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, which has the properties to scatter light very strongly. Unfortunately, the chemical also contributes roughly 75% of carbon footprints left from each container of the produced paint, harming the environment.

In replicating the beetle’s scale structure, researchers hope that this will lead to creating sustainable, ultra-white paints crafted from recycled plastic waste, as the X-ray technology also helped to confirm paint formation mechanisms as layers dried and became structured.

In regards to measuring the nanostructure of the synthetic whites researchers created, the team also used the instrument Larmor at the ISIS Spallation Neutron Source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire—part of the Science and Technologies Facilities Council.

“This research answers long-standing questions about how the structure inside these scales actually form and we hope these lessons from nature will help inform the future of sustainable manufacturing for paint,” said Stephanie Burg, a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Sheffield.

The team’s work, “Liquid-liquid phase separation morphologies in ultra-white beetle scales and a synthetic equivalent,” has since been published in Nature Communications Chemistry.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Carbon footprint; Coating Materials - Commercial; Coatings; Coatings Technology; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Green coatings; Latin America; North America; Research; Research and development; Titanium dioxide; Z-Continents

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/5/2019, 8:32 AM)

Hopefully the next story about this discovery will be a pilot trial making (and testing) paint. Will the structures stand up to an airless spray pump?

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