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The University of Southampton

Creating a colourful life

Published: 11 October 2005

The science of colour is being revealed to the world by a leading chemist at the University of Southampton.

Professor Mark Weller has secured a £110,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) for a public awareness project to tell the story of colour and pigments. It will cover everything from the history of colour in painting (cave art to contemporary) to the development of pearlescent and iridescent colours for cars and futuristic pigments which employ nanotechnology to change colour.

Mark and his team will develop displays for museums such as the Natural History Museum and devise hands-on activities for science centres and art galleries. They will also stage lecture demonstrations at major science festivals. The team will work in conjunction with paint companies, and car manufacturers to ensure the displays are up-to-the-minute and relevant to the general public.

"I've been fascinated by the science of colour for many years. It's something that we are all interested in, whether we're decorating our homes or choosing a new car," said Mark. "Colour links science with art. The artists' palette of colours comes directly from scientific discoveries and researchers are working on all kinds of exciting new colours for the future."

Charlotte Beard has been appointed as Science Communicator to help Mark with the project which developed from work with former University of Southampton student Dr Sandra Dann, who is now at the University of Loughborough.

Five fascinating facts about colour

* The Ancient Egyptians used copper to make the first 'modern' colour - Egyptian blue.
* Car companies are developing new paints that won't fade in bright sunlight and resist the effects of pigeons.
* You can get a brilliant yellow colour by feeding elephants mango leaves - and waiting for the results.
* Colour technology is used to keep banknotes secure from forgers.
* Professor Weller's favourite colour is turquoise.

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