COLOURED BY FLAVO: The Art and Science of Structural Colours from Flavobacteria


What if artists, scientists and bacteria co-developed ‘high-performance colour’ as a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based pigments and dyes? In this proposal, we aim to do just that; create a transdisciplinary community to develop high-performance, self-organising bio-based materials which are disruptive to conventional pigment and dye-based processes.

Colour is at the heart of the creative industries and critical to the quality of our lives. Most colourants used in artifacts have problems in performance (e.g. intensity and stability), are often based around petroleum products and/or transition metals. Currently, the choice of bio-based high-performance colours is limited. “Structural colour” (SC), is a viable, sustainable alternative. The best examples are found in nature (e.g. the peacock), in which nanostructures interact with incident light to reflect intense hues. Previously we have shown that SC can be created by non-harmful Flavobacteria grown on low value industrial waste. In this proposal, we promote a notion of collaboration with these living organisms, to enhance the fusion of technology and organic systems. We propose to establish this collaboration by capitalizing on artistic practice, not only for discovering unforeseen design potentials of these organisms but also conveying them to society. We offer a methodology which combines diverse technical and creative methods taking artists and scientists (and bacteria!) as equal and active partners. Outcomes will be realized within educational modules, material demonstrators, strategies to communicate design potentials and future research directions.





Prof. dr. H. Smidt

Verbonden aan

Wageningen University & Research, Agrotechnologie & Voedingswetenschappen, Microbiologie (MIB)


01/03/2020 tot 30/09/2021