BioInspiration: Making Colours with your Five a Day
Free Public Lecture
Over millions of years of evolution, living things have developed complex structures to manipulate light without any pigment, using only transparent materials. This so-called structural colour is responsible for the most intense reflections found in nature and is found in almost every kind of living thing, from mother-of-pearl, to peacock feathers and iridescent green beetles. Humans use artificial structural colorants in everything from paints to bank notes, but these are often made from chemicals and plastics that fade over time and can't be recycled.
In the lab at the University of Cambridge, researchers study how living organisms use simple biological 'building blocks' – such as cellulose in plants or keratin in bird feathers and human hair – to produce every imaginable colour and visual effect. We show how these highly abundant, biodegradable and non-toxic biomaterials can be used to produce bioinspired, eco-friendly colorants. Come and sample our structurally coloured cellulose – it’s edible!
Dr Silvia Vignolini, University of Cambridge
Dr Silvia Vignolini
University of Cambridge
Dr. Silvia Vignolini is a Reader in Chemistry and Bioinspired Materials at the University of Cambridge. Her research lies at the interface of chemistry, softmatter physics, optics, and biology. In particular, her research focuses on the study of how natural materials are assembled into complex architectures within living organisms and how these architectures define the organism’s appearance. Inspired by nature, her lab develops tools to fabricate artificial lightmanipulating structures using natural materials. Her group’s research is paving the way to the production of low cost, biodegradable novel materials, which could replace traditional, potentially hazardous colorants used industrially for different applications, such as cosmetics, textiles and security labelling.