A University of Connecticut scientist has perfected a method for creating quick-changing, variable colors in films and displays, such as sunglasses, that could lead to the next hot fashion accessory.
The new technology also has captured the interest of the U.S. military as a way to assist soldiers who need to be able to see clearly in rapidly changing environments.
The process for creating the lenses, for which a patent is pending, also is less expensive and less wasteful to manufacturers than previous methods. The findings were published July 7 in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.
"This is the next big thing for color-changing lenses," says Greg Sotzing, a professor of chemistry in UConn's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a member of UConn's Polymer Program.
The typical material behind a color-changing lens is what's called a photochromic film, or a sheet of polymers that change color when light hits them. Sotzing's new technology does things slightly differently – his electrochromic lenses are controlled by an electric current passing through them when triggered by a stimulus, such as light.
"They're like double pane windows with a gap between them," explains Sotzing. He and his colleagues squirt a mixture of polymers – or as he calls it, "goop" – in between the layers, creating the lens as it hardens. The mixture of polymers used in this lens, says Sotzing, creates less waste and is less expensive to produce than previous mixtures.
"The lifetime of sunglasses is usually very short," says Sotzing, who points out that people often misplace them. So by making the manufacturing less expensive, he says, commercial retailers will be able to produce more of them.
Another benefit of this material is that it can change colors as quickly as electricity passes through it – which is virtually instantaneously. This process could be very useful for the military, Sotzing says. For example, if a person emerges from a dark passageway and into the desert, a lens that would alter its color instantly to complement the surroundings could mean life or death for some soldiers.
"Right now, soldiers have to physically change the lenses in their goggles," Sotzing says. "This will eliminate that need." Sotzing will begin a one-year sabbatical at the Air Force Academy in August, where he hopes to develop some of these ideas.
In November 2010, partially based on work supported by the Center for Science and Technology Commercialization's Prototype Fund, the UConn R&D Corporation started a company, called Alphachromics Inc., with Sotzing and colleague Michael Invernale, now a post-doctoral researcher at MIT, as founders. The university has a patent pending for this new technology, which is currently under option to the company. Alphachromics is also testing applications of these polymer systems for energy-saving windows and custom fabrics.
Currently in talks with sunglass manufacturers, Sotzing says that the world of Hollywood could have a market for this technology. He describes applications he calls "freaky," including colors that move back and forth across the glasses, evoking styles like those sported by Lady Gaga.
But Sotzing stresses that the best thing about this technology is the creation of business in Connecticut. Although the glasses won't be made here, the technology will be licensed out of the state and, he hopes, Alphachromics will continue to expand.
"We don't make the sunglasses," he says. "We make the formulation of what goes inside them."
Sotzing's collaborators on the paper are Invernale and Ph.D. students Yujie Ding, Donna Mamangun and Amrita Kumar. The research was funded by the tech/textile company ITP-GmbH.
Christine Buckley | EurekAlert!
Manchester scientists tie the tightest knot ever achieved
13.01.2017 | University of Manchester
CWRU directly measures how perovskite solar films efficiently convert light to power
12.01.2017 | Case Western Reserve University
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration
"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...
Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.
Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
16.01.2017 | Information Technology
16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering