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Collaboration and Impact

Professor Silvia Vignolini sitting at desk and smiling at camera

Impossible Materials is developing a sustainable, cellulose-based white pigment, inspired by the 'brilliantly white' Cyphochilus beetle. Traditionally, chemicals such as titanium dioxide were relied on to create white pigments. However, titanium dioxide (E171) has long been linked with potential cancer risks as well as environmentally damaging extraction methods, and was banned in August 2022 as a food additive in the EU. The new white pigment made by the Vignolini group spin-out is made entirely from cellulose - it's colour comes from its unusual fibrous structure, based on the exo-skeleton of the Cyphochilus beetle, which scatters the light of all visible wavelengths. The technique creates a pure, bright white colour with no chemical additives. The new pigments being developed by the company can be used safely in food colouring, packaging, automobile paint, paper, and cosmetics and personal care items such as toothpaste. The company plans to initially target niche, high-value applications in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.