Color from beyond

Color goes beyond cosmetics and fashion. The industry can learn from thinking outside the box and broadening horizons by looking for applications in textiles, glass, bioenergetics, and paints and coatings, where innovations that haven’t even been thought of yet may be hiding.

Cospheric has been working on microspheres, microparticles and powders for over ten years in other industries. The microtechnology company developed its own proprietary process to produce polymer microspheres with tightly controlled particle size, opacity, color, sphericity, as well as internal and surface charge and magnetic properties. The unique advantage of opaque microspheres from Cospheric is that maximum hiding power is achieved with one invisible and feather-light layer.

They are used in paints and coatings industries because they: create a rich color; act as a filler, allowing the formulators to achieve the right viscosity of the product; spread easily, and ensure uniformity of the coating layer. While the company is in talks with several manufacturers, the technology has not yet been utilized yet by a cosmetics brand. But the potential is there.

More recently, the company developed a real-time, reliable technique for measuring electrostatic charge on microspheres. The technique involves creating a monolayer of microspheres contained in microstructure with each sphere being separated from its neighbors. This technique allows precise measurement of electrostatic charge of a large quantity of microspheres without allowing sphere-sphere interactions. The spheres will move in response to direction and strength of electric field. Armed with a fast and reliable technique for measuring electrostatic charge, engineers at Cospheric are able to do controlled experiments and tune their manufacturing process to produce microspheres and coatings of desired charge based on customer’s needs and specifications.

Electrostatic charge can be used in color cosmetics to control how a product interacts with the skin. Human skin has highly positive electrostatic charge. Since like charges repel and opposite charges attract, the charge of the cosmetic products can be manipulated to be more attracted to the skin—if the product is designed to be absorbed or stay for a long time, or less attracted to the skin—if the product only needs to stay for a short time and be easily wiped off the skin.

There are numerous applications of the company’s dual-functionalized microspheres as well, with most of them still waiting to be discovered. “I see it being used for creating interesting color-change effects, more effective blending with skin color or even some light-reflecting effects for younger-looking skin,” said Lipovetskaya. “Formulators can mix microspheres to make their own formulation and consumers can buy different colors and create their own blend as well.”

One particularly interesting and unique feature of these microspheres is their ability to orient themselves in response to electromagnetic field and show a visual response. This is achieved by making spheres both bipolar and bichromal, with dipole precisely aligned with two differently colored hemispheres. The sphere will rotate in electromagnetic field to align more positive hemisphere to the negatively charged stimuli and vice versa. As the spheres align themselves, the viewer will observe the color of one hemisphere, while the other hemisphere will be hidden from view, providing an obvious strong visible indication of the presence of the field. In alternating electromagnetic field, these microspheres can spin at hundreds of times per second.

The spheres were originally developed for very high tolerance electronic paper reflective digital displays, where functionalized microspheres are used to create an image that appears to the viewer. This functionality is achieved with proprietary and patented process that allows extremely precise coating on one hemisphere without affecting the other. Each coating is custom formulated for color, charge, magnetic, electric, and surface properties, and solvent resistance per customers’ needs. Color combinations are truly unlimited. “More pigments used for industrial applications can be explored and qualified. If we could test and approve them for cosmetic applications, the industry would have so many more materials to use,” concluded Lipovetskaya.

Read more about the innovation of color in the April 2010 issue of GCI magazine.


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