Explainer: how scientists invent new colours

For tens of thousands of years, humans have created colours through simple chemistry. At first we used dyes found in nature such as berries and charcoal. Later, new pigments were synthesised in the lab.

By now, you might think scientists would have come up with every possible colour, but in fact they continue to be invented to meet new challenges: tanks need better camouflage, mirrors need to be brighter, and satellites need new light-absorbing finishes to be able to peer further into space.

Today researchers use physics to invent new colours, inspired perhaps by the iridescent shades created by structures in butterfly wings that scatter light


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