The Biomimicry Institute has awarded the 2023 Ray of Hope Prize to Sparxell, a UK-based startup creating the next generation of colors and effects with vibrant, metal-like pigments, all from plant-based cellulose. By utilizing cellulose in pigment creation, Sparxell is showing how nature can color our world without the harmful environmental and societal effects of mined and synthetic minerals.
The Ray of Hope Prize is awarded each year to the world’s top nature-inspired startup at the conclusion of a 10-week accelerator program with 10 finalist companies. This year we received 215 applications from startups in 54 countries. As the 2023 Ray of Hope Prize recipient, Sparxell will receive $100,000 in recognition of their groundbreaking, nature-inspired work.
Conventional substances used to make our cosmetics, fabrics, paints, and packaging bright and colorful often include metal or oil-derived ingredients. For example, the most common pigment, titanium dioxide, causes a white coloration and is used in products from toothpaste to paper. Titanium dioxide has recently been recognized as a carcinogen and banned from food and pharmaceutical products in the EU. Furthermore, many pigments are mined in areas with high incident rates of human rights abuses, and where water is scarce. There are some bio-derived alternatives, but none have been able to compete at cost … until Sparxell.
Sparxell has developed the first environmentally sustainable, non-toxic pigments, glitters, sequins and films. Inspired by structural color found in nature, such as that of a butterfly wing or peacock feather, their patented manufacturing technique transforms cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) into uniformly reflective, highly dispersible particles with state-of-the-art performance. The pigments are a fully biodegradable, easier to source alternative with an unlimited range of vibrant colors. Because they can tune the structural color pigments to reflect specific bands of light, their pigments even enable new types of color. All this is possible while adhering to the recent EU regulations on microplastics like glitter.
The Ray of Hope Prize is a key initiative of the Biomimicry Institute and our founding partner, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. The late Ray Anderson was Founder and Chairman of Interface, Inc. and a sustainable business pioneer. Biomimicry was an important part of Ray’s and Interface’s early success in creating more environmentally friendly and better performing products. To learn more about the Biomimicry Institute, or to contribute to its creative work, visit https://biomimicry.org/about/#ourinitiatives.