Beetle scales hold secret to creating sustainable paint from recycled plastic


Recently, Laura and I attended the conference-Physical Aspects of Polymer Science in Lincoln. There were many intriguing talks on polymer with topics ranging from polymer chemistry to industrial design. One of which was presented by Stephanie Burg from the University of Sheffield. She introduced an interesting scheme to use beetle scale for producing sustainable paint from recycled plastic.

Cyphochilus beetle scales are amongst the brightest structural whites in nature. Their ultra-white appearance is created by the nanostructure in their tiny scales, as opposed to the use of pigment or dye and the optical properties are due to coherent light scattering from a two-phase (air and biopolymer) nanostructure. The authors used X-ray nanotomography of ultra-white scales for the measurement of the full 3D internal morphology of complete intact scales and 3D Cahn-Hilliard liquid-liquid phase separation simulations to match the effective filling fraction. Finite-difference time-domain optical modelling explored the optical properties of the reconstructed beetle intra-scale nanostructures. By managing to replicate this structure in the lab using plastic, researchers hope to pave the way for sustainable, ultra-white paints made from recycled plastic waste .New paints would have a much lower carbon footprint and help tackle the challenge of recycling single-use plastics.