Skip to content
Summer Science Exhibition 2007

Creating a colourful life









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Schematic showing the key structural elements of hackmanite that allow it to change colour – an electron (represented by an orange-brown sphere) is transferred from the ion (magenta) on the cage on the left and becomes temporarily trapped.

Ms Charlotte Beard and Professor Mark Weller, University of Southampton
Dr Sandie Dann and Dr Russell Mayes, Loughborough University

Pigments of the future, colour changing and environmentally friendly paints

Researchers from the University of Southampton and Loughborough University are developing new and colour changing pigments for a wide range of applications including security marking on banknotes and limiting overheating in greenhouses.

“Most people would immediately associate colour with creating a visual appeal – in art or decorating, for example,” says Professor Mark Weller from the University of Southampton. “Yet colours and pigments have such a broad range of applications that using them to create new optical effects could change how we live and what we see.”

The collaborative research team is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and several European pigment manufacturers. “We are working to create materials that change colour in response to heat and light as well as developing more environmentally-friendly pigments,” says Dr Sandie Dann from Loughborough University. “These new materials will provide the next generation of colour and optical effects with diverse applications in automotive, cosmetic, banking and security industries.”

Scientific research has expanded the amount of pigments we have today from the ancient, natural-earth pigments to the specialist coatings and colour changing materials used today. New developments could bring about smart pigments that react to the environment, such as materials that change colour depending to how they are viewed or the temperature.

Creating a colourful life The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK