Structural color from University of Akron uses self-assembling synthetic melanin nanoparticles to display bright natural colors.


  • Non-toxic
  • High-definition
  • Scalable


  • Manufacturing
  • Aerospace
  • Consumer goods

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 12: Responsible Production & Consumption

The Challenge

Current display technologies rely on energy-intensive, bright lights behind screens. These bright lights may cause eye strain, headaches, and other health issues after prolonged use.

Innovation Details

The structural colors are made of synthetic melanin nanoparticles coated in silica, which are placed in a thin layer on a surface to display color. The color is projected by the nanoparticles because they have a high refractive index and broad absorption, making them perceivable to the human eye. Moreover, due to the components of the structural color, it is non-toxic and food safe.

Biomimicry Story

Many birds have brightly colored feathers that assist with camouflage, sexual signaling, and predatorial defense. These wing colors are made from special arrangements of melanin (the same that gives human skin color). The melanin is mixed with keratin (a also found in human hair and nails) to form tiny structures that reflect the full visual light spectrum. This method of manipulating light results in brilliant colors.