Light-bending wood pulp, salt building material, seaweed bioplastics and more: The Digest’s Top 8 Innovations for the week of November 18th

November 17, 2021 |

#1 Sustainable sparkle: Light-bending cellulose solves glitter shortcomings

In the UK, researchers have made fully biodegradable glitter that sparkles just as brightly as its persistent plastic predecessor.

University of Cambridge scientists used wood pulp, but say other cellulose-rich wastes could be used. The sparkle was achieved by coaxing microscopic surfaces of cellulose to align in such a way that they bend light—thus creating color.

“The nanocrystals form a helicoidal structure, meaning the layers rotate as if arranged in a spiral. Think of it as a staircase,” lead author Benjamin Droguet tells Fast Company. “The way to control the color is by simply changing the size of those helicoids, so we can imagine a staircase with levels that are different distances from each other. The larger the features, the longer the wavelengths of light that will be reflected, which then changes the colors that we see.”

Plant-based glitters are already available, but often achieve their shine via aluminum or plastic films. Mineral glitters may be carcinogenic or be linked to child labor. The work was detailed in a recent issue of Nature Materials.

More on the story, here.

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