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Quick Color-Change Lens Technology Leads to New Company

Orange sunglasses (Minimalist Photography 101/Flickr)A professor of chemistry and colleagues at University of Connecticut in Storrs have devised a process for quick-changing, variable colors in films and displays, such as sunglasses. Greg Sotzing and one of his colleagues started a company called Alphachromics Inc. to commercialize the technology for consumer sunglasses lenses and military goggles.

Transition lenses normally use a photochromic film, or a sheet of polymers that change color when light hits them. Sotzing team’s electrochromic lenses are controlled by an electric current passing through them when triggered by a stimulus, such as light. Their findings appear this month in the Journal of Materials Chemistry (paid subscription required).

The lenses are analogous to double-pane windows, in that there are two surfaces with a gap between them. The technology injects a polymer gel between the surfaces, which hardens and becomes the lens. The electric current changes the color of the polymer material, almost in an instant.

The polymer used in the technology, says Sotzing, is less expensive and creates less waste than that currently used to make transition lenses. Reducing production cost and consumer price is important, since sunglasses often have a short lifetime, because of breakage or loss.

A potential market for the technology is the military, where service members often need to move quickly between darkened rooms and bright sunshine, and a quick change in lens color — without changing glasses — can offer a better awareness of potentially dangerous surroundings. Sotzing will begin a one-year sabbatical at the Air Force Academy in August, where he hopes to develop some of these ideas.

In November 2010, Sotzing and colleague Michael Invernale, now a postdoc at MIT, founded Alphachromics to commercialize the technology. The company has received funding from the the Center for Science and Technology Commercialization’s Prototype Fund. University of Connecticut has a patent pending for the technology, which is currently under option to the company.

Read more: Process Devised for Custom-Made Composite Materials

Photo: Minimalist Photography 101/Flickr

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2 comments to Quick Color-Change Lens Technology Leads to New Company

  • Jin. Hyung

    Dear Sir or Mam.

    We’re importer & wholesale distributor in Korea.
    We’d like to contact with Alpha Chromics regarding Color change lens.
    Pls. Let us know e-mail or website of Alpha Chromics.
    Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    Neo Vista Co.

  • Thank you Jin Hyung for your comment and readership of Science Business. Here’s the link for Dr. Sotzing’s lab at University of Connecticut that also provides a page with contact information: . Good luck and best regards. – AK