From transparent to structural white: Modulating nanoscale self-assembly in silica and nanocellulose composites

Vikram Singh Raghuwanshi, Anil B. Vir, Maoqi Lin, Gil Garnier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The opaque white and glossy structural color of composite films made of cellulose nanorod crystals (CNC) and silica (SiO2) nanospheres is elucidated by the formation of nanoscale self-assembled domains. Films of pure CNC and SiO2 made by evaporation induced self-assembling are transparent. Surprisingly, composite films of CNC-SiO2 (50:50) with high silica content are opaque, white and glossy. High photon flux SAXS combined with SEM reveal the formation of CNC and SiO2 self-assembled domains having different interparticle interactions and distances. The opaqueness, white color and transparency of the films are all explained by the multiple scattering and diffuse reflection of the incident light from the structural domains of CNC, SiO2 and CNC-SiO2. Understanding the self-assembly mechanisms of nanostructures enable efficiently engineer composites of functional optical properties for applications such as in sensors and bio-diagnostics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number131999
Number of pages5
JournalColloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2023


  • Cellulose nanocrystals (CNC)
  • Composites
  • Nanocellulose
  • Scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
  • Self-assembly
  • Silica (SiO)
  • Small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS)
  • Structure colour
  • White colour

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