Coloring systems are widely used in food and consumer products as colorants and sometimes as colorimetric sensors to indicate product quality. The coloring system used in these products (e.g. food, drug, and cosmetics) and in the packages and contact surfaces of them is usually pigment-based. The color properties of pigment-based color are inherent in the material and depend on the chemical nature of the pigment. Pigment-based color, especially naturally derived pigments, have limitations with stability and do not exist for all hues. More importantly, there is concern over unfavorable influences on health and the environment, as some artificial colorants contain harmful substances. 

This invention puts forward naturally derived photonic crystals to overcome these issues and obtain uniform and intense color. 

Technology Overview

This invention describes the design of naturally derived photonic crystals comprised of polymerized tea polyphenol (primarily catechins) nanoparticles as a new coloring system for foods. These crystals contain periodically ordered nano- or microstructures and can generate structural color from reflection, diffuse reflection, diffraction, and interference of light. The photonic crystal color system also shows unique solvatochromic properties (change color in response to organic vapor), and can serve as sensors to detect volatile organic compounds released during product spoilages. These colors are not susceptible to fading or washing out. crystal color system can be used as an alternative color system for food and consumer products. 


  • Variety of colors available (almost the entire visible spectrum) 
  • High stability and vivid color; minimal fading 
  • Safe for human consumption 
  • Environmentally safe and green 
  • Enhanced efficiency, beam quality 
  • Efficient scalability 
  • Solvatochromic properties for food spoilage detection 


  • Colorant for food, drug, and cosmetic products 
  • Intelligent spoilage sensor for food, drug, and cosmetic products 
  • Full-color displays 
  • Photonic pigments 
  • Colorimetric sensing


  • License 
  • Partnering 
  • Research collaboration 
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
Leila Deravi
Zhuangsheng Lin