Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A Rainbow for the Palm of Your Hand

In a single step, engineers create a rainbow-colored polymer that could open the door to portable, handheld multispectral imaging devices

University at Buffalo engineers have developed a one-step, low-cost method to fabricate a polymer with extraordinary properties: When viewed from a single perspective, the polymer is rainbow-colored, reflecting many different wavelengths of light.

Used as a filter for light, this material could form the basis of handheld multispectral imaging devices that identify the "true color" of objects examined.

"Such portable technology could have applications in a wide range of fields, from home improvement, like matching paint colors, to biomedical imaging, including analyzing colors in medical images to detect disease," said UB Vice President for Research and Economic Development Alexander N. Cartwright, one of the UB researchers who led the study.

The ease of producing the polymer could make it feasible to develop small devices that connect with cell phones to conduct multispectral imaging, said Qiaoqiang Gan, a UB assistant professor of electrical engineering and another member of the research team.

"Our method is pretty low-cost, and because of this and the potential cell phone applications, we feel there is a huge market for improving clinical imaging in developing countries," Gan said.

Because the colors of the rainbow filter are produced as a result of the filter's surface geometry, and not by some kind of pigment, the colors won't fade over time. (It's the same principle that gives color to the wings of butterflies and feather of peacocks.)

Cartwright and Gan's team reported on their polymer fabrication technique online Feb. 22 in Advanced Materials, an academic journal. Coauthors on the study also include UB students Ke Liu and Huina Xu and UB research scientist Haifeng Hu. An abstract is available here:

Images of Gan and Cartwright are available here: and

The UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) has submitted a provisional patent application detailing the production process to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

To create the rainbow material, Liu and Xu sandwiched a photosensitive pre-polymer syrup between two glass slides. (A photosensitive substance is one whose physical properties change upon exposure to light.)

Next, they directed a laser beam through a curved lens placed above the pre-polymer solution. The lens divided and bent the laser beam into light of continuously varying wavelengths.

As this light hit the solution, monomers in the solution began joining into polymers, forming a continuous pattern of ridge-like polymer structures. Larger ridges rose where the light struck with more intensity.

The resulting structure is a thin filter that is rainbow-colored when viewed under white light. This is because the periodic polymer layers reflect a continuous spectrum of colors, from red on one end to indigo on the other.

The single-step fabrication method -- shining a laser light through a curved lens -- is affordable and relatively simple.

The filter the researchers created was about 25 millimeters long, but the technique they used is scalable: It's possible to create filters of different sizes by shining the laser through lenses of different sizes.

Gan said the next step for the researchers is to improve the quality of the rainbow filter. The team is also beginning to explore ideas for incorporating the technology into handheld devices.

Liu presented the results of this work with the rainbow-colored polymer grating as a post-deadline paper at IEEE Photonic Annual Meeting in Arlington, Va., in October 2011. The conference is considered one of the premier international events for optics and photonics.

Charlotte Hsu | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht New polymer creates safer fuels
02.10.2015 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Making batteries with portabella mushrooms
30.09.2015 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Physicists shrink particle accelerator

Prototype demonstrates feasibility of building terahertz accelerators

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...

Im Focus: Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions

New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...

Im Focus: High-speed march through a layer of graphene

In cooperation with the Center for Nano-Optics of Georgia State University in Atlanta (USA), scientists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have made simulations of the processes that happen when a layer of carbon atoms is irradiated with strong laser light.

Electrons hit by strong laser pulses change their location on ultrashort timescales, i.e. within a couple of attoseconds (1 as = 10 to the minus 18 sec). In...

Im Focus: Battery Production: Laser Light instead of Oven-Drying and Vacuum Technology

At the exhibition BATTERY + STORAGE as part of WORLD OF ENERGY SOLUTIONS 2015 in Stuttgart, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT and for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS will be showing how laser technology can be used to manufacture batteries both cost- and energy-efficiently.

In the truest sense, it’s all about watts at the Dresden-based Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS and the Aachen-based Fraunhofer...

Im Focus: New Sinumerik features improve productivity and precision

EMO 2015, Hall 3, Booth E06/F03

  • Drive optimization called automatically by the part program boosts productivity
  • Automatically switching the dynamic values to rapid traverse and interpolation...
All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Graphene teams up with two-dimensional crystals for faster data communications

06.10.2015 | Information Technology

Laser-wielding physicists seize control of atoms' behavior

06.10.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

Flipping molecular attachments amps up activity of CO2 catalyst

06.10.2015 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>