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Smartphone App Moves Fashion Forward

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2018
AUTUM C. PYLANT, NEWS EDITOR, autum.pylant@photonics.com

Imagine being able to change the pattern of a shirt or pants via a smartphone app. A solid purple shirt, for example, now has the ability to gradually change colors or even become striped, all with the touch of a button on a smartphone or computer.

CREOL, the College of Optics & Photonics at the University of Central Florida (UCF), has introduced what they’re calling the first-ever active, user-controlled, and color-changing fabric. Ayman Abouraddy, professor of optics and photonics at UCF, told Photonics Media that the ChroMorphous technology uses the thermochromic effect.

Courtesy of CREOL/UCF.

Courtesy of CREOL/UCF.

“Specially designed pigments that undergo a transition between two selected colors at a desirable temperature are exploited in the manufactured fibers,” Abouraddy said. “The fabrication procedure was originally inspired by thermal fiber drawing from a preform — the process exploited in the manufacturing of optical fibers of all kinds. We have then transitioned to a different manufacturing procedure — melt-spinning — that enables production of fibers at the rates needed for the high-volume textile industry.”

Other color-changing fabrics currently on the market use LEDs to emit light of various colors. CREOL’s ChroMorphous thread is different in that it incorporates a thin metal microwire into the fabric, raising the thread’s temperature and triggering the color and pattern change.

The UCF creation allows the wearer to control when the color change happens and what pattern appears on the fabric. Using an app, the consumer can choose from a variety of patterns and colors to suit any need or mood. This can all be done with a tap of a button on a smart device.

“Although clothing has been a staple of the human experience for millennia, the basic structure and functionality of textile fibers and yarns have remained unchanged throughout history,” Abouraddy said. “The capabilities of electronics constantly increase, and we always expect more from our iPhones, so why haven’t textiles been updated? Can we expect an ever-expanding range of functionalities from our clothing?”

The CREOL team asked those questions when they began creating the ChroMorphous technology in 2016, looking at ways to incorporate ever-changing technology into the fashion industry. The patent-pending fabric is being produced at Hills Inc. in Melbourne, Fla., where they’re currently working on power optimization, automating the electrical connectorization process, and working to reduce the diameter of the threads to produce fabrics for wide-scale market adoption.

The ChroMorphous technology could one day be used wherever fabric is used. The color of accessories, clothing, furniture, upholstery, and even curtains could be changed at the touch of a button. And keeping up with the current fashion trends may now be just as simple, thanks to ChroMorphous color-changing fabrics.

GLOSSARY
optoelectronics
A sub-field of photonics that pertains to an electronic device that responds to optical power, emits or modifies optical radiation, or utilizes optical radiation for its internal operation. Any device that functions as an electrical-to-optical or optical-to-electrical transducer. Electro-optic often is used erroneously as a synonym.
Light SideeducationResearch & TechnologyAutum PylantCREOLUCFthe College of Optics & PhotonicsThe University of Central FloridaChroMorphousLEDsfiber opticsoptoelectronicsConsumerindustrialmanufacturingAyman AbouraddyopticsLighter Side

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