Thursday, 1 September 2011

Thermochromic Blooms

In the early nineties, Hypercolor t-shirts were popular. I was probably six or seven when I had one, which turned from green to yellow with body heat. I remember loving it, the mere act of creating and leaving a hand print on your clothes was a wonderful novelty to a kid, but the transition of colours eventually wore off the more frequently the t-shirt was washed and it was eventually rendered unworn and was discarded. Mood rings on the other hand, which apply the same technology - still linger in my old jewellery box, even when the colour change has pretty much ceased.

The thermochromic technology was flawed because it was easily and irrevocably damaged by washing at too high a temperature, ironing or tumble drying. Or in other words, overheating would kill your t-shirt. Yet somehow thermochromics are back and are being re-introduced by designers into clothes - as with my friend Jo, who is researching her PhD - and into conceptual wall papers.

Shi Yuan’s creative wallpaper (above) incorporates thermochromic paint that changes colour as the temperature from heating appliances rises. This allows the somewhat chintzy floral design to gradually blossom with pale pink flowers across your walls, then gradually fade as the heat source returns to a cooler ambient temperature.

Thermochromic technology has also been used in wallpaper by Elisa Strozyk, who's designs look less at the evolution of a wallpaper pattern for aesthetic reasons and more at the increased awareness of the occupants surroundings. A change in colour allows you to know when your radiator has begun heating the room, and the progression of the pattern and it's vibrancy indicates where heat is now reaching. Strozky has also experimented with applying the same thermochromic paint to the radiator itself, allowing it to disappear into your wallpaper pattern as the temperature increases, thus letting you know visually when a radiator is either on or off and hopefully act as a reminder to turn them down when you aren't in the house in order to save energy.

In the nineties, thermochromic technology was flawed because its inability to withstand even short exposure to high temperatures. If their now being applied to radiators which are intentionally and repeatedly exposing the paint to high temperatures, does this mean that they are now, in the naughties, more stable? Or have we simply forgotten about the discarded t-shirts?

Is it nostalgic novelty or viable design concept?

Ideally the latter, but only time and further experimentation will tell.

link - Shi Yuan
link - Elisa Strozyk
via - Open Materials
Listening: Ray LaMontagne - How Come


Ali said...

I remember those T-Shirts! They were amazing. Not sure about the wallpaper though, fascinating idea but as you say, how well would it last... Maybe it's for people who redecorate yearly?! xx

Kate said...

A-Maz-Ing!!! I want wallpaper now!

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