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Innovative colour changing clothes warm up global apparel market

Designers are experimenting with color changing clothing. Researchers and designers around the world are developing techniques and technology with exciting possibilities. Color-changing textiles are still in their infancy but knowledge around them is beginning to spread. However, thermochromic inks have been used for decades, from novelty items such as mood rings, to packaging that indicates when food or drink is at the right temperature, to more utilitarian applications such as thermometers and battery indicators.

One such technology is Ebb that uses color-changing threads that respond to electrical charges. The threads are conductive and coated in thermo chromic pigments. Developers are weaving and crocheting these threads to create different designs and effects. While the color change is currently slow, they hope to eventually make it as fast as e-ink, which would open up many possible applications.

Working with leuco dye-based thermo chromic inks, researchers have developed methods to allow colorful patterns to appear on solid-colored fabrics in response to environmental temperature changes. Leuco dyes are colored when below their activation temperature and clear or very light above that temperature. They are usually blended with other pigments, which allows them to change from one color to another. Researchers have experimented with different blends to create inks that look similar to each other when below the temperature threshold, but reveal multiple hues when warmed. They have also created designs with inks that activate at different temperatures, creating textiles that change multiple times as the temperature rises.