Monday, 16 April 2012

Intelligent | Materials


When the topic of Nike’s innovation kitchen is raised it is hard not to conjure up the image of a room filled with exotic materials and complicated pieces of technology. This is down partly to our naturally speculative nature but increasingly due to Nike’s memorable marketing material. Tales from the Kitchen is no exception. The increasingly complicated technological developments such as Hyperfuse are neatly summarized through a comical, comic book style story involving its creators. The result is that you are enlightened yet left quizzical as to what other advances will be made in the near and distant future. This is where intelligent materials come in. Having watched all the current installments from Tales from the Kitchen for a second, third and even fourth time, I would like to propose where I think Nike will be venturing next: photocromic materials.

Photochromism does not have a rigorous definition, but is usually used to describe compounds that undergo a reversible photochemical reaction. Without delving too deep into the science of it all this is when pigments can change from being colourless to coloured/opaque when exposed to natural/UV light. This colour shift effect appears in just a few seconds and can happen more than 1000 times before the reaction vanishes. The more light the pigments are absorbing the more the pigments shift into an intense colour. The video below will demonstrate:


As first seen with the Hyperfuse releases, there is a market for more adventurous colour combinations. Hyperfuse’s success is in the way it can layer colours due to the composite materials inability to completely absorb the colour pigment(s). Importantly, these colour combinations are pernament and are extremely unlikely to fluctuate over the course of time. Photocromic materials on the other hand would offer diverse flexibility of colourways and an additional tonal complexity. Depending on the sensitivity of the material, changes in colour could vary from muted tonal ranges of the original colour to altogether entirely new colours. Best of all these changes are entirely controlled by external factors of our living environment. Hypothetically this could mean that your shoes would never be the same for any prolonged period of time. Just as a closing thought, imagine if a Nike AF1 could transform itself into any of these colours and back again.   

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