Smartphone-controlled, fabric color-changing is coming

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed the first color-changing fabric that can be controlled with a smartphone.

Professor Ayman Abouraddy and his team at CREOL, The College of Optics and Photonics, have developed a series of prototypes that includes purses and backpacks. The products change color and pattern through the use of an app or with the click of a built-in button.

The technology relies on metal micro-wires embedded in each individual thread and a rechargeable battery pack. When activated, an electric current flows through the wires, slightly raising their temperature and causing special pigments in the thread to change color.

The team is focused on developing thinner fabrics that would be soft enough for use in t-shirts and other garments. And they’re trying to determine the appropriate balance of size and power for their battery packs.

In the future, the researchers hope responsive fabrics can have wide-ranging applications beyond fashion. They see potential safety, medical and even military uses for fabrics that could change color, temperature or stiffness in response to a variety of stimuli.

The team hopes their first products will hit the market in a year.