Alchemist Lauren Bowker has created an ink that changes color based on the environment around it. She impregnates her dye into fabric and feathers, then constructs clothing (and sculpture) that reacts to chemicals in the surrounding atmosphere. Now you can wear climate change and pollution on your sleeve!
Exposed to carbon emissions or cigarette smoke, her potions transform through a series reversible color changes.
Other inks are responsive to light, heat and friction, allowing you to “change clothes” without ever undressing!
“I chose the feathers because [this] piece was about the birth of something new and the piece goes through dark phases to light, which is meant to be spiritual,” Bowker told Dezeen at the Wearable Futures conference in London last week.
Bowker began her research at the Royal College of Art, concocting inks that respond to different environmental conditions. It was there that she developed a pollution-absorbent ink called PdCl2, which changes color from yellow to black in contaminated conditions then reverts back in fresh air.
“I graduated with an ink which is respondent to seven different parameters in the environment,” Bowker said. “Not only will it absorb air pollution, it will change color to UV, heat, air friction, moisture and more. This gives it the capability to go through the full Red-Green-Blue scale.”
“Each ink works very differently, it depends on what sort of material you want to apply it to,” she added.
The inks can be applied to most materials. “You can screen-print it, paint it, spray it, or alternatively you can dye things with it, impregnating the fibers with the color,” said Bowker.
Bowker’s techno-dyes were initially showcased using fashion, but they’re now being adopted by a range of industries seeking applications bespoke to their business, including a concept airplane interior for Airbus.
“Everyone saw this technology and saw their own vision of how they could use it,” said Bowker.
“If you came to me and said ‘I want my silk jersey to change color when I’m at Oxford Street, then when I’m at Baker Street I want to be a different color’, I would go out and map the fluctuations in the environment of each tube station then I would create you an ink that responds to those environments,” Bowker told Dezeen.
Bowker has established The Unseen, a design firm focused on biological and chemical technology to raise product awareness.
She also hopes to develop manufacturing to make the ink more affordable. The company is targeting London Fashion Week in February 2014 for a wider product launch.
Ultimately, Bowker sees potential in the medical industry, “If it goes into a T-shirt that lets you know if you’re going to have an asthma attack, that for me is much more successful than having an amazing fashion collection.”
All images from Lauren Bowker