A new exhibition at Kew Gardens in London shows structural colors, a phenomenon that results from the reflection of light from complex nanostructures. Kew says these are “the brightest colors ever created,” and they will be on display at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art from May 17 through September 26, 2021.

Typically, synthetic materials are colored with dyes or pigments that absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others. Structural colors are created by nanostructures that reflect light in a material and create a hue that, unlike pigments and dyes, never fades.

The upcoming exhibition will feature Pure Structural Color, a technology developed by the UK’s Lifescaped Laboratory that recreates microstructures found in nature, such as those found in hummingbirds and some marine animals, to create each hue in its most vivid form. It could potentially one day replace pigments that are ethically or sustainably difficult to source.

Pure Structural Color will soon appear in several commercial products and is also being tested by biologists as a living marker for animals as well as poaching prevention, according to Lifescape.

The exhibition will, according to Kew, “contain prototype accessories coated with Pure Structural Color” to illustrate the potential in the world of fashion and design. “Scientists have spent decades trying to reproduce nature’s brightest, metallic-looking colors,” said Andrew Parker, director of Lifescaped. “Pure Structural Color was the first to achieve this on a large scale.”


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