A sustainable technology that uses a single ink to 3D print multiple dynamic colors

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Elizabeth Bello

Published on
February 19, 2024

Color Chameleon co-authors pose for a photo in the atrium of the Beckman Institute
Top row from left to right: Professor Simon Rogers, Professor Ying Diao, Professor Charles Sing and Professor Damien Guironnet. Bottom row left to right: Yash Kamble, Sanghyun Jeon, Jiachun Shi, Haisu Kang and Tianyuan Pan. Not pictured: Matthew Wade and Bigal Patel. Photo credit: Jenna Kurtzweil, Office of Communications, Beckman Institute.

Inspired by the color-changing ability of chameleons, researchers have developed a sustainable technology that can 3D print multiple dynamic colors with a single ink.

“By designing new chemistries and printing processes, we can dynamically adjust structural color to create color gradients that were previously impossible,” said Ying Diao, associate professor of chemistry and chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. . Researcher at Mann Institute of Advanced Science and Technology.

The research was published in the journal PNAS.

“This work is a great example of the power of collaboration,” said co-author Damien Guironnet, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Chameleon 3D print illustration on black background. The color gradient changes from orange (head) to blue (tail).
Inspired by the color-changing ability of chameleons, researchers have developed a dynamic and sustainable color-changing ink, as shown in the 3D printed chameleon illustration created by the research team. Image credit: Sanghyun Jeon, Diao Lab.
In this study, Diao and her colleagues proposed a UV-assisted direct ink writing 3D printing method that can control the evaporative assembly of specially designed cross-linked polymers by modulating light during the printing process. to change the structure color.

“Unlike traditional colors that come from chemical pigments or dyes that absorb light, the rich structural colors in many biological systems come from nanotextured surfaces that interfere with visible light. This makes them more vibrant and potentially more sustainable.

Researchers can produce structural colors ranging from deep blue to orange in the visible wavelength range. While an artist might use a number of different pigments to achieve this color gradient, the research team used a single ink and modified the way it was printed to create the color gradient.

“This work shows the benefits of all of us learning from each other by sharing our successes and challenges,” said co-author Simon Rogers, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

“Only by working together were we able to engineer this system at the molecular level to produce such fascinating properties,” said co-author Charles Xin, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and materials science and engineering.

Editor’s note:

The paper, titled “Direct-Ink-Write Crosslinkable Bottlebrush Block Polymers for On-the-fly Control of Structural color,” is available online at: https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2313617121

Contact Diao Ying: yingdiao@illinois.edu

Media Contact: Jenna Kurtzweil, kurtzwe2@illinois.edu

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