Changing Your Hair Colour Without Using Dye

Etching your hair strands with nano-patterns probably isn’t the first alternative to come to mind. New research is suggesting that the future of hair colouring could be in the form of a flatiron that presses a pattern into the strands of your hair, changing its colour permanently.

Scientists from the University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory have released a paper entitled: Nano-Patterning of Diffraction Gratings on Human Hair for Cosmetic Purposes, which details the procedure.

 They studied how focused ion beam technologies can be used to pattern different materials.

This is not the first time we have seen tiny patterns engraved on hair. Three years ago, Martyn Poliakoff, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham scribed the entire periodic table of the elements onto a single strand of his hair. By magnifying the hair under an electron microscope, they were able to etch the world’s smallest periodic table using a beam of accelerated ions of gallium at huge speeds.

Using a focused ion beam (FIB), the scientists in New Mexico were able to etch microscopic spirals and hyperbola onto individual hairs which diffract light in different ways. The FIB allows patterns to be created that can reflect different bandwidths of light depending on the depth, width and area of the tiny ridges.

By testing the FIB nano-patterning on different hair types they found that, unusually when dying hair, colouring was most effective on brown hair.

 Using a million dollar machine to colour your hair is not reasonable by anyone’s standards.

The hair iron is still an imagined reality however the concept touches on “structural colour” which is present throughout nature. Ever wondered why peacock’s wings are so blue? Well, microscopic ridges on the feathers scatter light causing it to appear blue.

Although hair etchings are permanent, researchers have thought about incorporating the use of a ‘conditioner’; a polymer coating that would protect the hair from permanent patterning. After a few washes, the colour and etchings would washout returning the hair’s original surface and colour.

But it’s not just hair colouring that this technology can be used for. Carving information into a tiny area can be used in any industry. From credit card readers and identification to a tool to filter viruses or bacteria from blood, this could really be used in any industry.

The technique developed for consumers to permanently colour their hair can potentially have unlimited possibilities in other, completely different fields.

Paula Clerkin

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Images via University of Mexico


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