Over millions of years, animals and plants have evolved complex molecules and structures that endow them with vibrant colours. Among the sources of natural colouration, structural colour arises from the interaction of light with nanoscale features rather than absorption from a pigment. In this talk, we introduce cellulose, a highly abundant biopolymer, as an avenue towards sustainable material development. Specifically, cellulose nanocrystals self-assembly to produce materials with vibrant colouration.
We investigate the self-assembly process and show the development of a range of colourful materials, all based on the nanostructures of cellulose nanocrystals. Furthermore, the lessons we learned from the self-assembly process resulted in a cellulose nanocrystal elastomer which showed reversible visible colouration upon stretching.