Machine Design

Soap bubbles, beetles inspire new iridescent pigment

New color-variable pigments can seemingly change the color of a part from rose to green or somewhere in between. A part may be, for example, transparent when viewed at a 90° angle, colored at 15°, and opaque at 180°.

New colorant technology developed by BASF Corp., Mount Olive, N.J., adds a shimmering, kaleidoscopic play of bright colors on plastic parts. The new Variocrom color-variable pigments give more intense colors and complex shifting hues than conventional angle-dependent or "flip-flop" effects, says BASF's Jennifer P. Bailey. BASF scientists who developed the new pigments drew inspiration from the brilliantly iridescent shell of the exotic rose beetle and the constantly changing colors in soap bubbles, according to Bailey.

Intrigued by the new pigments, Teknor Color Co., Pawtucket, R.I., brought them to the attention of hairdryer maker Conair Corp. Drawing on experience with other flip-flop pigments, Teknor Color developed concentrates that maximize the special effects at minimal loadings. Variocrom pigments come in four basic colors: Magic Gold, Magic Red, Magic Purple, and Magic Green. "These can be combined with organic pigments and dyes to produce an infinite variety of colors," Bailey says.

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