Textile Spotlight: Color Change Fabric


Are you a designer who loves color? Then you need to check out this awesome piece of textile technology. Perhaps you’ve seen garments that can change color using the sun’s UV rays, or even heat. Thanks to Materials scientists at both Harvard University as well as the University of Exeter in the UK, a new fabric is being added to the family of color-change textiles.

This color change fabric doesn’t need sun or any other outside help, all you have to do is put it on- it changes color when stretched.

The gorgeous, saturated hues used in the textile are inspired by nature- namely the same color palette found in butterflies as well as a wacky fruit called the “bastard hogberry.”

Scientists also took inspiration from how the eye perceives these colors. The iridescent shades found in the berry, on a wing, and on other animals such as peacocks, are due to the physical surface structure. Our view of the surface changes angles with movement, and so do the colors.

Color change fabrics

With this concept in mind, the textile was taken a step further; the surface and view were altered by stretching the fabric, resulting in a color change.

The fibers were even designed to mimic the optical structure of the hogberry. Fibers are rolled in a few layers of polymer that contain a full range of colors. When the fiber is stretched, the layers become thinner, and different colors are revealed.

The textile has a wide range of potential uses, from packaging to fashion.

This could definitely be an interesting material for activewear designers- changing color with movement and muscle tension. Though this fabric is not available yet, the process will eventually be able to be scaled up to suit industrial production.

Jessica Bucci

Jessica has been trained in a wide variety of textile and fiber processes, traditional as well as computer-aided, which she uses in both her design and sculptural work. Jessica has also served as a teaching assistant for beginning weavers and drawers.