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Scientists have developed ‘nanosphere’ paint that could reduce carbon emissions from airplanes

Paint may seem like an insignificant component when building large machines like airplanes, but its mass can have a big impact on the overall weight. Now there’s a new lightweight material that could be a worthy replacement: two materials scientists from Kobe University, Fujii Minoru and Sugimoto Hiroshi, have discovered a new type of nanosphere – microscopic silicon crystals. The particles are able to reflect light due to very large and efficient scattering, as detailed in a paper in the ACS journal Applied Nano Matter . As a result, covering a surface with a bright color costs only 10% additional weight compared to regular paint, it reports.

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This weight reduction can have a dramatic impact on factors such as fuel costs and carbon emissions. Simply put, the heavier the aircraft, the more fuel it needs, which directly increases airline costs (and therefore ticket prices), as well as the amount of fuel burned and CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

Minoru and Hiroshi’s discovery involved structural rather than pigment color to create and preserve hues. Pigments absorb specific wavelengths, reflecting those that the human eye perceives. Structural colors arise due to the interaction of light with micro- and nanostructures, causing color due to interference, coherent scattering or diffraction. Just like how the color of the wings of some butterflies or the plates of beetles changes.

 

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The team’s work builds on previous research in which they were able to grow nanocrystals of a given size. This was followed by the creation of a colloidal suspension that keeps the silicon nanoparticles mixed with the liquid base, preventing them from settling. Currently, the color of nanosphere paint changes when the size of the nanocrystals changes. Larger particles create warm tones like red, while smaller particles create cool tones like blue. In this case, the shades should remain unchanged at any viewing angle.

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