A scarf "before" it receives an electric current.

CREOL, the College of Optics and Photonics at The University of Central Florida, said it has developed the first active user-controlled color-changing fabric. The user can change the color or pattern of the fabric via an app on their smartphone.

Engineered by a team of scientists at UCF, the material is comprised of woven threads embedded with thin metal micro-wires and color-altering pigments, which enables color and pattern change in large woven fabrics and cut-and-sewn textile products, according to the university. Via its “ChroMorphous” technology, when an electric current flows through the micro-wires woven into the fabric, the thread’s temperature is raised; in response to the temperature modification, the pigments embedded in the thread alter the material’s color.

Its technology “allows the user to control both when the color change happens and what pattern to appear on the fabric” through an app that gives consumers the ability to “choose from a variety of patterns and colors to suit their need or mood, all from the tap of a button on their smart device,” according to the university. For example, UCF scientists said they have successfully tested solid colored scarves and a tote bag that can now gradually add strips upon pressing a “stripe” button on a smartphone or computer.

A scarf “after” it receives an electric current. Photo courtesy of UCF. 

Dr. Ayman Abouraddy, professor of optics and photonics at UCF, said, “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. 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? These were the questions we asked, and the foundation for creating the ChroMorphous technology that we began developing in 2016. We are excited to introduce the industry’s first color-changing fabric, as we believe it’s the next groundbreaking innovation in fashion and textiles.”

The university said its color-changing textile is differentiated from comparable technical fabrics in the market because of its user-controlled dynamic color and pattern change. And they said most color-changing fabrics contain LEDs that emit light of various colors. This new technology will be “scalable at mass-production levels via a process known as fiber-spinning,” and is currently being produced with CREOL’s collaborators at Hills Inc. in Melbourne, Fla.

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