Watch: Reprogrammable, Color Changing Ink from MIT Could Revolutionize Fashion

mit research photochromeleon color changing ink

A team of researchers from MIT seems to be on the verge of revolutionizing fashion with re-programmable ink that could allow you to change the colors of any sneaker or outfit!

Dubbed the ‘ProtoChromeleon Project’, this new type of ink lets objects change color if you expose them to various types of light and, even better, switch back to their original color scheme. 

“This special type of dye could enable a whole myriad of customization options that could improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce overall waste. Users could personalize their belongings and appearance on a daily basis, without the need to buy the same object multiple times in different colors and styles,” said CSAIL postdoc Yuhua Jin, the lead author on the project’s paper.

Ready for shoes that can match your entire wardrobe?

photochromeleon sneakers mit project

To go beyond and expand customization possibilities, the researchers first printed a voxel pattern with one color per voxel, but, since the voxels were 1 mm x 1 mm and 3D printed, they created low-res images that required a specialized 3D printer.

However, there was a limitation: photochromic materials switch from transparent to one color only, then back again. 

The solution?

photochromeleon mit project

“In this paper, we present a method to create re-programmable multi-color textures that are made from a single material only. The key idea builds on the use of photochromic inks that can switch their appearance from transparent to colored when exposed to light of a certain wavelength.

By mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY) photochromic dyes into a single solution and leveraging the different absorption spectra of each dye, we can control each color channel in the solution separately,” is the way the researchers sum up their project. 

For an equally mesmerizing read, you can access their paper here.

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