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Polymer Opals

An overview of the group's research into polymer opals.

These are structural colour materials, made cheaply from nano-assembly

Structural Colour Materials

 

Polymer Opals on YouTube: See the dramatic stretch-induced colour shift of the latest samples ->More Videos
Opal Textilepolymer opals in textiles
Industry Magazine “Textiles” published a cover article on our Polymer Opals.  The article provides an easy to read overview of polymer opals.
Crystal Structures
Gemstone  opals achieve their characteristic brilliant colours through countless sub-micron spheres neatly arranged into crystal structures. In the same way, polymer spheres can be synthesised and arranged into crystal structures to produce similar iridescent colours. Whilst synthetic opals have been fabricated in the lab for over two decades, the samples are brittle and aren’t suited for mass market applications.
Flexible
In this project we investigate the fabrication of crystals from spheres that have a soft, chewing-gum-like outer shell. A real advance is that we can make these photonic crystals by standard plastic manufacturing techniques. They are flexible, making them some of the most durable opalescent materials available, and they are suited for mass production and incorporation into consumer items. The colours are intense and attractive, suggesting many decorative applications. They arise from an unusual optical property that we are investigating. Unlike existing dyes and pigments the crystals are made from non-toxic, inexpensive materials. The intense colour, difficult to achieve by other methods, are highly resistant to fading.


Beny and StretchedAs each particle in the crystal has it’s own soft shell, the crystals can be bent and stretched. This causes a reversible change in the arrangement of the spheres in their lattice and so changes their colour. This unique property suggests further applications where inexpensive indication of tension of flexing is required.

Fasion ShowPolymer opals at the Paris Fashion Show
London-based designer Rainbow Winters included fabrics based on our polymer-opals in the Paris Fashion show. Clothes featured colour changing panels and swathes.

 

References:                          more
Q Zhao et al., Nature Comm. 7, 11661 (2016)
Snoswell et al., Phys.Rev.E 92, 052315 (2015)

Ding et al., ACS Appl.Mat.&Int. 7, 13497 (2015)
Ding et al., Nanoscale 7, 1875 (2015)
T Ruhl et al., Polymer 44, 7625 (2003)
OLJ Pursiainen et al., Optics Express 15, 9553 (2007)
OLJ Pursiainen et al., Advanced Materials 20, 1 (2008)

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