“When a butterfly in America flaps its wings…” the traditional result, according to ‘Butterfly Theory’, is a tornado forms on the other side of the world. For Lexus, however, it is a car which stands out on the road.
During a 15-year span that culminated in the development of this new exterior colour, a collaboration between the company’s technical centres in both the USA and in Japan, together with VIAVI Solutions Inc (a leading provider of thin film optical coatings and pigments based in California), sought to replicate the deep, shimmering blue of the wings of the Morpho butterfly.
This insect lives in North and South America and though human eyes see a blue colour, the wings are in fact colourless. The blue that is ‘seen’ is created by light interference on the microscopic lattice surface structure of the Morpho butterfly’s wings.
At first, it seemed the challenge was simply too great: the desired quality could only be secured using a pigment with no less than 40 separate layers. Replicating this effect led the team to combine an entirely new kind of multi-layered pigment with experiments with the basic principles of the way light interacts with our eyes. They constantly improved the process until the effect could be created with just a 7-layer structure. This made it practical for use in the production of cars, albeit highly exclusive ones like the LC500 and 500h.
The pigment is used to produce a new paint in a production process taking 8 months, including 12 production steps and 20 quality inspections. The paint is applied to the LC’s bodywork in a 15-micrometre layer between the primer and clear coats. Nano-structures – super-small flakes – in the paint generate iridescence, giving the impression of the colour constantly changing with the light. Conventional pigment paints reflect less than 50% of incoming light as a visible blue colour but with Structural Blue, the level is nearly 100%. In total, 300 gms of pigment with 300 billion pigment flakes is used for every one of the special LCs.
Structural Blue is thus much more than simply a new choice on a colour chart. It is a finish that is deeper, more lustrous and more ‘blue’ than anything seen before. First presented on the Grand Tourer in the spotlight of the Geneva Motorshow, it created an instant sensation.
The striking new colour is being made available for the first time on a new and special version of the LC, the LC Structural Blue Edition. Offered in strictly limited numbers, these cars will be the choice of those who recognise and value the interaction of science and the highest standards of Lexus Takumi craftsmanship. Such is the fine quality of the process that only two Structural Blue cars can be produced in a working day at Lexus’ Motomachi factory in Japan.
Given the effect, like that of the butterfly wings which inspired it, is designed to work on the eye rather than on a camera lens, it is only when the Structural Blue paint is seen on an actual car that the amazing effect becomes clear.