“When a butterfly in America flaps its wings…”
According to the butterfly effect, the theoretical result is a tornado on the other side of the world; but for Lexus it is a car which stands out from anything else on the road.
It’s called Structural Blue and it’s much more than simply a new choice on a colour chart. The result of Lexus’s painstaking advanced technology research is a finish that is deeper, more lustrous and more blue than anything seen before.
First presented on Lexus’s acclaimed LC grand tourer under the spotlights of the Geneva motor show, it created an instant sensation. Now it has been developed for production, adding extra elements of exclusivity and hand-finished quality to the sensuously designed coupe.
The striking new colour is being made available for the first time on a new, 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.
Structural Blue: inspired by nature
The 15-year quest to develop Structural Blue saw a collaboration between the company’s tech centres in both the USA and Japan, together with VIAVI Solutions Inc, a leading provider of thin film optical coatings and pigments based in California, USA.
In its intensive search to create the new colour, the team drew inspiration from the Morpho butterfly. Native to North and South America, this insect is renowned for the deep, shimmering blue of its wings. However, the wings are actually colourless. The blue seen by the human eye is created by light interference on the microscopic lattice surface structure of the Morpho butterfly’s wings.
Replicating this effect led the team to combine an entirely new kind of multi-layered pigment that experiments with the basic principles of the way light interacts with our eyes.
Such is the fine quality of the process, only two Structural Blue cars can be produced in a working day at Lexus’s Motomachi plant
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. But the team persevered, constantly improving the process until the effect could be created with just a seven-layer structure. This made it practical for use in car production, albeit highly exclusive ones like the Structural Blue LC 500 and 500h.
The pigment is used to produce a new paint in a production process taking eight months, 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, 300g of pigment with 300 billion pigment flakes is used for every one of the special LCs.
Such is the fine quality of the process, only two Structural Blue cars can be produced in a working day at Lexus’s Motomachi plant in Japan, the high-technology home of the LC.
Like the butterfly wings which inspired it, the new Structural Blue paint is designed to work on the eye rather than a camera lens. So it is only when the paint is seen ‘in the flesh’ that the amazing effect becomes clear.