Most objects in everyday life are coloured with the help of pigments, but this has disadvantages: The colours can fade, artificial pigments are often toxic. In nature, however, there are also so-called structural colours in which the microstructure of an object produces colours. Peacock feathers are an example. They are brown pigmented, but reflect the iridescent blues and greens we see due to tiny, regularly arranged cavities in the feathers.
Nanostructures for structural staining can now be manufactured technically, and computer scientists from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have now developed a computer program that automatically creates 3D printing templates for nanostructures that are required to generate the colors desired by the user. Their results show the great potential of structural dyeing for industry and also open up the possibility for laymen to create their own designs. Thomas Auzinger, first author and postdoc at IST Austria, presented their the work at the computer graphics conference Siggraph 2018. IST Austria researchers are participating in five presentations at this renowned conference this year.