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Rainbow Connection

photo - airbrush spraying colorPhoto: Rob Felt

Artists, print designers, and interior decorators have long had access to a broad palette of paint and ink colors for their work. Now, researchers have created a broad color palette of electrochromic polymers, materials that can be used for sunglasses, window tinting, and other applications that rely on electrical current to produce color changes.

By developing electrochromic polymer materials in a range of primary and secondary colors and combining them in specific blends, the researchers have covered the color spectrum — even creating four shades of brown, a particularly difficult color combination.

The materials could be used to make sunglasses that change from tinted to clear in a matter of seconds, at the press of a button. Other uses could include window tinting, signage, and even greeting cards that change color through the application of low-voltage electrical current.

Supported by BASF, the research was reported in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. The work was done in the laboratory of John Reynolds, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech.

“We’ve demonstrated the ability to create virtually any color we want by mixing different electrochromic polymers, just like mixing paint,” said Anna Österholm, a research scientist in Reynolds’ lab. “Using a simple coating method or even inkjet printing, we can create films that change color with the application of a voltage.”—‘‘JOHN TOON

photo - Anna Osterholm

Anna Österholm is a research scientist in the Georgia Tech School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Her research focus is on electrochemical- based devices for charge storage and electrochromics.


Electrochromism is a process by which a material changes its electro-optic properties through the application of an electric potential across the material. Typically, these electro- optic changes occur in the visible region of the spectrum with the material switching colors upon a change in applied potential.

Georgia Tech is home to more than 2,500 faculty members who conduct scientific and engineering research in hundreds of different research areas.

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