Shiny Colors Crafted from Natural Fruit Wax

Jim Crocker
8th February, 2024

Shiny Colors Crafted from Natural Fruit Wax

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Picture this: a bird flitting through a forest, its eyes scanning the foliage for a burst of color signaling a delicious meal. Many fruit-eating animals, like our feathered friend here, rely heavily on their keen sense of sight to locate food. Interestingly, a lot of these creatures have eyes that are particularly good at spotting shades of blue. Given this fact, it's a bit curious that nature's buffet doesn't feature more blue-colored fruits. It turns out that when it comes to the color of fruits, there's more than meets the eye – literally. Take a moment to savor the image of a blueberry, with its rich, velvety blue sheen. At first glance, you might think that this hue comes from a blue pigment. However, that's not actually the case. Researchers have peeled back the layers of this botanical mystery and discovered that some fruits, like blueberries, plums, and juniper cones, owe their color to a remarkable trick of structure rather than pigment. It's a bit like a magic show in the plant kingdom. These fruits get their color from tiny structures that scatter light in a special way. Think of it like a soap bubble catching the sunlight and shimmering with a spectrum of colors, or a peacock feather dazzling with its iridescent blues and greens. The secret behind the blue hue of these fruits is similar; microscopic elements on their surface interact with light to create that lovely blue appearance. Scientists were so intrigued by this natural phenomenon that they decided to recreate it in a lab. By taking the waxy substance that gives these fruits their frosty coating and letting it crystallize, they could actually produce this blue color artificially. It’s evidence that nature often has the best design tips, leading to innovations that we can mimic in the lab. This finding also opens up a delightful buffet of possibilities. It means that the ability to show off a blue color is not just for fruits that naturally come with a blue-tinted underlayer or specific pigments. The study has found that fruit from completely different branches of the family tree can wind up with the same stunning blue, despite having vastly different physical traits. So, why don't we see more blue fruits out there? The fruits that have gotten the blue memo seem to be making the most of an exclusive club. As it stands, a blue fruit is a unique little gem in a world dominated by shades of red, orange, and yellow. These blue-colored fruits might also be hinting at a future where we can harness these natural design principles for our own use. The epicuticular waxes, those responsible for the color trick, are not just cool lookers; they are supermaterials in hiding. They are sustainable, biocompatible, and have the astonishing abilities to self-assemble, self-clean, and self-repair. Just imagine the applications - coatings for buildings that clean themselves, materials that mend their own scratches or dents. All inspired by something as simple as the bloom on a blueberry. What we thought was a curiosity of nature turns out to be a window into new engineering marvels. The fruits that color our world are not just tasty treats, but mini laboratories showcasing nature's ingenuity. They offer invaluable insights into how we might design the materials of tomorrow, with a little help from the art of optical illusion and the science of structure. So next time you spot a blue fruit, take a moment to appreciate the complex beauty and perhaps, the glimpse into a future of innovative, nature-inspired technology.

BiotechBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Self-assembled, disordered structural color from fruit wax bloom.

Published 7th February, 2024

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