Using photonic crystals to color carbon fibers


In a recent article published in the journal Dyes and Pigmentsresearchers discussed the usefulness of photonic crystals (PCs) to prepare carbon fiber substrates with structural tints.

Study: Preparation of carbon fiber substrates with structural colors based on photonic crystals. Image Credit: plotplot/


Carbon fiber (CF) is widely used in a variety of fields including aerospace, vehicles, military, sports, infrastructure and textiles due to its superior chemical and physical qualities. The graphene-like CF structure, on the other hand, makes its surface chemically inert, resulting in weak binding interactions between CFs and dye molecules, making CFs difficult to stain using traditional staining technologies. .

It is essential to establish a simple, convenient, and high-quality approach to obtaining CF staining. In recent years, structural coloring has attracted a lot of interest as an environmentally friendly coloring technology. Grating diffraction, thin-film interference, and PC are commonly used to generate structural colors. In today’s world, PCs with structural colors offer a new perspective on CF color. Finding a high-yield technology to fabricate large-scale PCs on FCs will be a good method to promote the structural coloration of FCs.

About the study

In this study, the authors discussed the structural coloring of CF substrates by rapidly constructing PCs with structural colors inspired by natural structural colors. PCs were constructed using poly(styrene-methacrylic acid) (P(St-MAA)) colloidal microspheres generated by soapless emulsion polymerization. The effect of mass fraction of colloidal microspheres and density of the substrate on the structural colors of CF textiles was examined.

The researchers used the sputtering approach on CF panels to generate structural color patterns. Additionally, CF panels prepared with structural colors were coated with polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to improve structural color longevity. To produce the structural staining of CF substrates, PCs consisting of monodisperse colloidal P(St-MAA) microspheres were rapidly created using a sputtering approach. The mass fraction of the pre-assembly solution used to build PCs on CF textiles was investigated and calibrated at 10% by weight. The influence of CF fabric density on the structural color effect was investigated,

The team constructed the PCs having vivid structural colors on CF substrates using a sputtering method, which provided a novel idea for the rapid preparation of CF substrates with large-area structural colors. Colloidal P(St-MAA) microspheres with four different particle sizes (235 nm, 213 nm, 307 nm and 255 nm) were prepared using a soapless emulsion polymerization method. A spray gun was used to spray these microspheres onto the CF substrates to quickly create PCs on CF substrates. For structural colors, the mass fraction of the colloidal solution of P-microspheres (St-MAA) and the density of CF textiles were investigated. Additionally, PDMS was used to enclose the colored CF substrates to create a PDMS/PC-based CF composite material, and the mechanical qualities were evaluated using a rub and rinse test.


The results demonstrated that colloidal P microspheres (StMAA) with particle sizes of 235 nm, 213 nm, 307 nm and 255 nm could exhibit structural colors of PC according to Bragg’s diffraction law. On the increased density CF textiles, stronger structural colors could be achieved when the mass fraction of colloidal microspheres was 10%. The patterns on the CF panels had bright and vivid structural colors. Additionally, after rubbing and rinsing tests, the colored PDMS-coated CF panels retained their vibrant structural colors.

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Structural color tint changed from -15° to 45°, with a slight blue change from 75° to 110°. Under a 45° light source, the highest reflectance peak shifted slightly towards the shortwave direction as the viewing angle increased from -15° to 45°. As the angle increased from 75° to 110°, the maximum reflectance peak of the reflectivity shifted slightly towards the long wave direction. The visible tint gradually changes to blue as the viewing angle increases from 0° to 90°. The resulting structural colors on the CF textiles quickly lightened and became bright as the mass fraction of the pre-assembly solution increased from 6 wt% to 10 wt%.


In conclusion, this study has elucidated new ways to environmentally color CF substrates and stimulated the creation of CF products with a diverse range of styles. It has been found that the denser the density of the CF fabric, the brighter the structural colors. The results revealed that PCs built on CF cards were smooth and able to display vivid structural colors with a noticeable iridescent effect.

The authors pointed out that the ideal mix of sputtering technology, CF substrates and structural coloring will undoubtedly satisfy people’s diverse expectations of CF mode and encourage the industrial production of colored CF materials. They also believe that new techniques for ecological staining of CF substrates will be developed as a result of this study.


Liu, H., Zhang, Y., Jin, M., et al. Preparation of carbon fiber substrates with structural colors based on photonic crystals. Dyes and Pigments 110338 (2022).

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