Thursday, 29 January 2009

Smart Materials

I have been reading a book all about Smart Materials this morning, which I ordered with some photochromic and thermochromic materials... I am very excited to test these out to see what sorts of interesting combinations I can come up with.

Photochromic Pigments which react to UV light and change colour accordingly should be very interesting as will give the impression that an image simply appears when you step out into the sunlight. It can be mixed with any acrylic media so the possibilities for this product are very vast.

Thermochromic Materials such as smart colour pigments change colour at specific temperatures. They are based on liquid crystal technology (at certain temps the liquid crystals re-orientate which results in an apparent change of colour). The liquid crystal itself is micro-encapsulated (the tiny particles are surrounded by a coating) and billions of these capsules (10microns in diameter) can be mixed with a suitable carrier (most acrylic media) to create printing inks for fabrics.

At room temperature the pigment appears coloured but at 27oC it disappears. The colour possibilities are endless as it can be mixed with any acrylic paint to make any colour and when it heats up to over 27oC the smart colour pigment will become transparent leaving a different colour underneath. (see example above)

Glow-in-the-dark pigments are phosphorecent pigments that absorb and store energy from natural or artificial night to be expelled as a glowing image at night when their is a limited or no light supply.
It comes in a powdered form which can be mixed with an acrylic medium to form a water resistant seal around the particles. If it does not have this barrier the pigment will degrade when exposed to moisture.
Its effectiveness depends on the thickness of the print and how much is used in conjunction with the acrylic paint.
The possibilities: you can 'charge' up your garments print all day so it will 'glow' all night-an alternate image will appear at night when the glow-in-the-dark pigment takes over from the photochromic pigment.

I think that using all these different pigments in conjunction will give a single garment multiple looks see post on One t-shirt many looks...?


Paddy said...

Hi Jo, I found your blog on the DHTP followers link. I'm a second year Product Design student at Duncan Of Jordanstone. This post on Smart Materials is really interesting, and I agree the possibilities for these kinds of materials are vast. Not just in textiles, but across a whole range of disciplines.

Anyway, keep up the good work!


Jo said...

Thanks Paddy, Im actually working to try to develop a temporary printing method onto fabric. In where an image wold be printed and fade over a period of time (day or week). See my older posts for more info and thanks for your comment:) Your posting on Richard Harpers Lecture and book Being Human has inspired me to pick it up and start reading!

Lorenzo said...

Hey, this is very very interesting. :)
Can you please give me some info about where to buy these sorts of materials?

Thank you!

Jo said...

Hi Lorenzo, you can buy these materials along with lots of other interesting stuff at

hope this helps and keep me updated on what you are doing with your own research work:)

Lorenzo said...

Hey Jo, thank you for the link, the shop seems full of nice ideas ;)
If I'll do something cool I'll be sure it gets to your attention!

coupdefoudre said...

hi jo, i stumbled across this page in a google search for smart materials, because my textiles gcse exam (tomorrow, agh!) is partly about smart materials. just wanted to say that you explain things much better than my teacher, all the revision guides, and bbc bitesize revision guide, so thank you, and you should write for CGP or something!

Grace X
PS. your work looks amazing!

Jo said...

Hi Grace, thank you so much for your comment, that is very kind and I am glad my post has come in useful for you:)there are loads of really interesting books on the subject and about designers working with smart materials, if you want a list for future ref. you can email me at

Good Luck with your exam tomorow!!:)

Jo x

Lea said...

hey Jo, ive got my textiles mock exam coming up and don't quite understand how the glow in the dark material works as i have to describe it in the exam can you explain it to me please
lea x

Lea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo said...

Hi Lea,

send me your email and I will send you some information. Thanks. Jo x