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What is Pure Structural Color? Encompassing the Vibrancy of Nature

Art and science collide with the invention of Pure Structural Color, the key to eco-conscious art that emulates the brightest colors found in nature. Pure Structural Color, pigments developed by Lifescaped, a studio and lab founded by Andrew Parker, exhibited their first artworks made with the revolutionary technology at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London in June.

Naturally Brilliant Colour. Courtesy Royal Botanical Garden Kew

The gallery is displayed completely in the dark, capturing only a small portion of light. In such an environment, the PSC paint appears lumiscent. "If we look at the tiniest of coral reef creatures under the microscope, we can see the most incredible colors, much brighter than pigments," says Lifescaped's Andrew Parker,"And when you look at them under electron microscopes you can see the minute structures that interact with light to produce these colors."

The pigments, constructed with intermediate-sized particles (not quite microscopic, not quite molecular) called nanostructures, can reflect light across trillions of surfaces to create a hue so vibrant it mimics the naturally occuring luster or glow of jewels, flowers, insect exoskeletons, or butterfly wings. Some works were even inspired by natural phenomena like sunlight or the Big Bang. By combining these nanostructures with biodegradable polymers like silicon dioxide and small amounts of existing formulations, the pigments are not only brilliant but also less environmentally harmful than common dyes made of synthetic solvents and resin. The CDC warns that many dyes can be toxic when airborne or when exposed for prolonged periods, even causing birth defects and cancers.

Naturally Brilliant Colour. Courtesy Royal Botanical Garden Kew

Due to the minuscule size of the fragments, PSC is lightweight compared to most commercial paints, meaning the commercial application of Lifescaped's technology extends beyond art galleries, suggests Parker. "For example, if you replace the paints used to cover a jumbo jet with a structural color, you would be saving about one ton in weight, which is quite significant for fuel costs."

The qualities of PSC can benefit not only the scientific and artistic worlds, but the natural as well. Due to Lifescaped's focus on developing their pigments as environmentally-conscious alternatives to common paints comes full circle. Utilizing and studying the biological structures of natural color ultimately reduces the strain on the environment. "Art and science are really brought together by color. Here we're using physics in order to manipulate and refine the nuances of color we can produce."

Naturally Brilliant Colour. Courtesy Royal Botanical Garden Kew

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