Bacteria pigments may not be a welcome topic for some of us in light of the virus that has ruled the world since early 2020. Our lives, as we knew it, have changed and continues to change to this day. But life goes on and other world concerns like climate change and sustainability issues are also important. These are addressed by innovations, just like bacteria pigments in paint colors.
The consumer has become more sophisticated about colors over the years, which is why many industries, like fashion, car manufacturing, product design, digital, food, architecture, cosmetics, and so on, consider this element important in their businesses. With environmental concerns also increasing in urgency, finding ways to manufacture colors in a sustainable way is significant.
Bacteria Pigments in Paint Colors
Paint colors are achieved through pigments and dyes, when there is a selective absorption and reflection of specific wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.
Researches on bacteria pigments have been ongoing for years. The main reason for the interest is the nontoxic nature of pigments produced by microorganisms that make them friendly for dye, foodstuff, pharmacy, cosmetics and other industrial purposes.
There are also pigments from ores, plants, microbes, and insects. However, these pigments are not as stable as those that are cultivated from microorganisms like bacteria, which has the added benefit that it can also be cultivated all year round. It must be said, however, that most of the pigment production are still at R&D stage.
Human safety and environmental concerns make research on bacteria pigments worth pursuing since they are considered natural sources of colors. But for commercial production, ways still have to be found for an efficient harvesting of bacteria pigment to make it attractive to big business.
Another way of producing color is through structural coloration, or the production of colors by nanostructures (microscopically structured surfaces) fine enough to interfere with visible light.
Photonic nanostructures are responsible for the vivid and shimmering coloration of butterfly wings for example. Ongoing R&D expects to create structural colors using Flavobacterium colonies as a model system to demonstrate that genetic alteration in their shape and motility can also change their visual appearance, and thus their striking optical effects, from metallic green to blue and red.
The University of Cambridge and the Dutch company Hoekmine BV are collaborating in a research that has “unlocked the genetic code behind some of the brightest and most vibrant colours in nature. The paper, published in the journal PNAS, is the first study of the genetics of structural colour – as seen in butterfly wings and peacock feathers – and paves the way for genetic research in a variety of structurally coloured organisms…
The results open up the possibility of harvesting these bacteria for the large-scale manufacturing of nanostructured materials: biodegradable, non-toxic paints could be ‘grown’ and not made, for example.” (Labiotech.eu}
To give you a better understanding of structural coloration, see the video below which shows an innovation of creating structural colors from an organic material—wood.
What the Future Holds for Colors
Trend forecasting company WGSN came out with a report called Advanced Color Forecast 2025 which explores ideas about what the future holds for colors based on innovations in bio-science. Right now there are companies that are using new technology to come up with environmental-friendly products, such as clothes that use biodegradable and naturally fluorescent fiber made from engineered proteins found in organisms.
For the future, we can expect bio-materials to give us iridescent colors, spectrum effects (from ultra tones such as electric blue, hyper pink and ultraviolet), metallic colors, tactile translucency, upcycled neutrals undyed in order to save on water during the manufacturing process, and clean, non-toxic sources of black.
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