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The Green Life: White Beetle Inspires White Paper

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June 15, 2009

White Beetle Inspires White Paper

White as a beetle's shell. . . A white-shelled beetle is the muse behind a research team's idea for a new white paper coating. The Cyphochilus beetle, native to Southeast Asia, has a unique surface structure composed of microscopic scales arranged in 3-D structures that scatter light far more efficiently than the fibers currently used in paper. In 2007, scientists from the University of Exeter and Imerys Minerals Ltd. figured out the secret to the beetle's extreme whiteness. The team's current research, recently published in the journal Applied Optics, explores the possibility of mimicking the insect's shell structure in paper production. The mineral particles traditionally used to make paper white are twice as thick as the beetle-shell-inspired coating. Producing lighter paper would reduce the amount of emissions created by transportation, making that ultra-white paper just a shade greener.

--Della Watson

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