The Scientific Invention of Color

Fagjun | Published 2017-07-30 18:17



The scientific invention of color doesn't involve color alone, but chemistry, physics, and new materials as well.


Humans first started creating and experimenting with colors back in simpler times. Back then, people used things found in nature to give something else some color. For example, they used berries, charcoal, and other natural forms of pigment.


As time went on, human needs became more complex, and even the creation of color became a lot less simpler. Eventually, scientists used synthetic chemicals in creating pigment. Of course, the scientific invention of new colors isn't just for making things pretty. Color can actually have some important uses, which have prompted scientists to explore the creation of color. Color has its function in military applications, space missions, and other similar endeavors.


Thus, the science of color is becoming more and more innovative. With these developments, color is also becoming more and more useful. In what ways, however, does color push technology further?


Color and Scientific Invention

Image credit to FOX


So there's black, Sterling Archer from Archer's slightly darker black, and there's also Vantablack. Vantablack may be the darkest black there is.


Staring into the “blackest of black” can be creepy. It's like staring into a hole in the fabric of time and space, where there's absolutely nothing. Surrey NanoSystems created this color by packing miniscule carbon tubes together in a vertical position. Carbon is already naturally black, but the structure of the tubes enhanced carbon's color. The structure is able to absorb and trap a whopping 99.6% of light. This is why it's so uncomfortable to look at, because we're not used to seeing something that traps that much light.


Photo by Surrey NanoSystems


What's the deal with absorbing that much light, anyway? A big one, considering that scientists can convert light to heat. Coatings that can absorb light can also make telescopes work better, enabling astronomers to see the stars more clearly.


At the other end of the spectrum, we also need colors that can reflect light instead of absorbing it. Reflective material is useful in solar applications, which produce electricity from the light of the sun. The same principle can also create car coatings with a satin finish. These coatings have glass microparticles that scatter light, thus creating a satin effect.


Taking Inspiration from Nature


There are a variety of ways to create new colors. At times, scientists come up with these colors to satisfy a need for that kind of color, because necessity is indeed the mother of scientific invention. Certain materials, chemicals, and structures can all come together to create something new and entirely useful.


New ways to achieve a new color can also edge out older techniques that have harmful effects. For example, achieving a satin finish on a car's exterior used to require electroplating, which uses potentially cancer-inducing materials.


Funnily enough, though these are innovative ways to create new colors, nature actually did it first. Scientists also take inspiration from things like butterfly wings or fish scales to create the structures that will induce the scientists' desired color. Scientific invention and innovation are amazing, but nature plays a bigger role than we may expect.

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