July 12, 2011

Scientist Creates Technology For Variable Color Sunglasses


A scientist from the University of Connecticut has perfected a method for creating quick-changing, variable colors in film and displays, such as sunglasses.

The new technology has captured interest of the U.S. military as a way to assist soldiers who need to be able to see clearly in rapidly changing environments.

According to the press release for the research, the process for creating the lenses also is less expensive and less wasteful to manufacturers than previous methods.

"This is the next big thing for color-changing lenses," Greg Sotzing, a professor of chemistry in UConn's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a member of UConn's Polymer Program, said in a statement.

The material behind a color-changing lens is called a photochromic film, or a sheet of polymers that change color when light hits them.  The new technology uses electrochromic lenses that are controlled by an electric current passing through them when triggered by a stimulus, such as a light.

"They're like double pane windows with a gap between them," Sotzing said in a statement.  He and his colleagues squirt a mixture of polymers in between the layers, creating the lens as it hardens.

Sotzing said the mixture of polymers used in this lens creates less waste and is less expensive to produce than previous mixtures.

"The lifetime of sunglasses is usually very short," Sotzing said.

He said that by making the manufacturing less expensive, commercial retailers will be able to produce more of them.

According to the researchers, the benefit of this material is that it can change colors as quickly as electricity passes through. 

Sotzing said he is currently in talks with sunglass manufacturers and that Hollywood could have a market for this technology as well.

He said the best thing about this technology is the creation of business in Connecticut.  He said the technology will be licensed out of the state and he hopes that Alphachromics will continue to expand.

"We don't make the sunglasses," he said in a statement. "We make the formulation of what goes inside them."


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