Imagine soft, supple, and varied interior fabrics that are as fade-resistant as outdoor fabrics. Studies being conducted on the “structural”, as opposed to “pigment” coloration in the wings of some butterflies could lead to the further development of vibrant, but fade-resistant, colors in textiles.
The butterflies being studied have a particular type of structural color, but other types of structural color do exist.
Textile Coloration Technology
This would be new technology. Currently the coloration of fabrics relies on dyes or pigments that are applied at various stages to the fibers or yarns.
The fade-resistant fabrics we’re familiar with today are solution dyed. With solution-dyed fabrics, the dye is added to a synthetic liquid solution before it is spun into fibers. The most widely used applications for solution-dyed fabrics: outdoor fabrics, patio umbrellas, awnings, canopies, and marine fabrics. These fabrics are strong, substantial, and have a typically non-soft hand. These are not the fabrics of supple draperies and curtains, or soft, comfortable indoor seating.
It is possible to use the solution dyeing process with other fabrics, but high cost is a factor, along with the fact that a large inventory of a color results in the inability to react to fashion demand considerations. So, the process is little used for the fabrics we desire in interiors.
Possibly an additional positive for the use of structural coloration is that the environmental impacts of dye and pigment processes are often negative. New processes using structural coloration could result in environmentally cleaner methods of coloring textiles.
Imagine the Possibilities
• Nanotechnology textile colorants with little environmental impact.
• And imagine, structural colors that mimic the composition of butterfly colors. Nanotechnology that could offer not only fade-resistant colors — but that could possibly take us to a new level of shimmery looks and fabric iridescence. Shimmery butterfly colors on curtains or draperies — could this be a stretch?
• But, at least some nice soft and supple fabrics for interiors, in either subtle or brilliant fade-resistant colors. This would be something to look forward to.
We’ll see what the future brings.
You can read an article on the research at the L.A.Times online.