Wearable Technology: World’s First Colour-changing Graphene Dress

Colour-Changing Graphene Dress

In recent years, the fashion industry has been experimenting with wearable technology (see Solar panels go Couture), blurring the boundaries between textiles and tech. The little black dress is one such garment that has received a hi-tech revamp, being christened the world’s first graphene dress.

So what is graphene and what makes this dress so amazing?

Graphene is a super-thin “wonder material” scientists think could revolutionise every aspect of human life. It is just one atom thick and a million times thinner than human hair, it is 200 times stronger than steel and conducts electricity better than anything else known to man. 

Produced in 2004 by Russian-born scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov working at The University of Manchester, graphene is believed to have thousands of potential commercial applications. It is everything from lightweight and conductive to flexible and thermal.

The prototype garment showcases the future uses of the revolutionary, Nobel Prize winning material, and how it could be incorporated into fashion.

The dress was created by Cute Circuit – whose hi-tech creations have been modelled by celebrities such as Katy Perry – in collaboration with Manchester’s National Graphene Institute. Complete with graphene-enhanced sensors, the dress captures the wearer’s breathing patterns, then a microprocessor analyses this data causing the tiny LED lights (also on transparent graphene elements) to change colour.

Deep breaths trigger the lights to turn from purple to turquoise, while lighter, shorter breaths mean the lights switch from orange to green.

In the future the designers hope the technology could be used to make a material which can be altered by the wearer within seconds – meaning one garment could be programmed to show any colour or design.

Dr Paul Wiper, research associate at Manchester’s National Graphene Institute, said: “This is a fantastic project; graphene is still very much in its infancy for real-world applications, and showcasing its amazing properties through the forum of fashion is very exciting.”

Graphene is still expensive, so the dress has only made use of small amounts of the material. But it still provokes thought on the future use of graphene in fashion and beyond. And lets us wonder what colour we’ll wear tomorrow…

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