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Beetle Scales Contain Secret to Creating Sustainable Paint from Recycled Plastic

The structure of ultra-white beetle scales may hold the key to creating bright-white sustainable paint utilizing recycled plastic, scientists at the University of Sheffield have found.

Cyphochilus beetle scales are among the brightest whites in nature, and the nanostructure creates their extremely-white appearance in their tiny scales, versus using pigment or dyes.

Experts mow can recreate and enhance on this structure in the lab utilizing low-cost materials—through a method which could be used as a sustainable alternative to titanium dioxide in white paint.

Andrew Parnell, a doctor from the University of Sheffield’s Division of Physics and Astronomy, who led the analysis, said: “In the natural world, whiteness is normally created by a foamy, Swiss cheese-like structure made from a solid interconnected community and air. Until now, how these structures shape and develop; also how they’ve developed light-scattering properties has remained a mystery.

The observations show that the foamy structure of the beetles’ scales had the precise proportion of empty spaces, which optimize the scattering of sunlight—creating extremely-white coloring.

Regular white paint contains nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, which scatter light very strongly. Nonetheless, the use of titanium dioxide is dangerous to the surroundings as it contributes to almost 75% of the carbon footprint of each tin of paint that’s created.

To measure the tiny individual beetle scales, researchers used a method known as X-ray tomography, which is similar to a CT scan; however, on a minuscule scale. The scientists used the X-ray imaging services on the instrument ID16B at the European Synchrotron Research Facility in Grenoble, France.

The examine was performed in collaboration with the coatings firm AkzoNobel, makers of Dulux paint.

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