Titanium dioxide structures allow super strong material to ditch dull reputation

a selection ofcarbon fibre fabrics

Source: American Chemical Society

Varying the thickness of titanium dioxide coatings can give carbon fibre a wide range of bright colours

A new way of dyeing carbon fibre makes it possible to weave them into vibrantly coloured fabrics, paving the way for new applications.

Carbon fibre is a common component in materials that have to be lightweight and strong, such as in top-of-the-range sporting or military equipment. But such materials nearly always have to be black or dark grey, because it is extremely difficult to get carbon fibre to hold a dye.

Now, a group of researchers in China has found a way to produce brightly coloured carbon fibre fabrics using structural colours instead of chemical pigments. Structural colours result from light interacting in interesting ways with micro- or nanoscale features, so the researchers were able to create colour effects on black carbon fibre by coating them in a layer of titanium dioxide. The colour of the light reflected by this layer could be controlled by varying its thickness.

The resulting coloured fibres could be woven into fabrics that had similar mechanical properties to regular carbon fibre fabrics. They were also colourfast, staying bright even after being washed 50 times.

The team say that as well as enabling more stylish colour options for high tech fabrics, their approach could have applications in future optical or colour display technologies.