Researchers in China have created fibers with structural color properties, so no dyes would be required nor would the color ever fade.
In an article in Chemical & Engineering News entitled, Structural Color From Nanoparticles Makes Bright Fibers, these researchers have discovered that they can ‘spin’ fibers out of latex nanoparticles. By controlling the size of the nanoparticles, they can ‘tune’ the colors of the fibers themselves.
This tuning of the fibers mimics something that happens in nature called structural color. Certain types of bird feathers, or beetle shells, derive their color not from pigment, but rather from how light interacts with the physical structure of the materials. The effect is called metamerism, which is the proportion of total light given off (emitted, transmitted, or reflected) by a color sample at each visible wavelength.
At The Trend Curve we believe that discoveries like this on are game-changers for the future of textiles. That’s because there is a shift going on with consumer awareness about what they eat, bring in to their homes, wear on their bodies, and otherwise support financially with their expenditures:
- Consumers are increasingly aware of the foods they’re ingesting and the methods of how their food was grown, raised or processed, and making choices based on what happened during their food’s journey from farm-to-table (e.g., see General Mills says bye to dyes in all cereals).
- In addition, we are finding that there is a corresponding awareness of textile dyes, glues, formaldehyde finishing resins and chemical additives present in fabric—and the quite common allergic contact dermatitis many suffer when in contact with certain textiles—so your use of a manufacturing method that could eliminate the dyeing process altogether would be a strong competitive advantage.
Because structural color is fadeless and dye-free, structurally colored materials have attracted great attention (as has this new research) but the this newly discovered approach cannot yet produce fibers strong enough to be woven in to textiles quite yet.
Stay tuned, though: This new research shows a lot of promise in paving the way for the development of revolutionary dye-free technology for the coloration of fibers.