Soon you may never have to worry about your sunglasses not matching your shirt again, because a University of Connecticut scientist just designed a way to produce films and displays that change color nearly instantly.
Whereas the old style of transition lenses use photochromic films that react passively to changing light levels – and weren’t too quick about it – chemistry professor Greg Sotzing’s new design uses a sandwiched pair of films that are reactive to electric current. These electrochromic films can change color as quickly as the current can pass through them. In other words, just about instantly.
Because the films’ color changes are electrically induced, sunglasses or goggles made with them can be both instantaneously reactive to light changes with the use of simple light sensors, or can change color at the user’s discretion.
While it’s a distinct possibility that color-switching sunglasses will come out on the runway in the near future, Sotzing’s film has one of its best applications in the military. Soldiers in rapidly changing environments are currently either stuck with goggles and glasses that aren’t suited for every situation, or time-consuming lens changes. Using electrochromic films eliminates that need, replacing multiple lenses with one always-perfectly-tinted unit.
Sotzing builds his lenses by injecting a binding polymer in between two sheets of the film, which he claims is a cheaper manufacturing process than those used in traditional lens making. This may be a boon to the military, but it’s tough to imagine they’d show up on the consumer market as anything but ridiculously expensive. Still, designer shades aside, eyewear that quickly responds to changing light conditions does seem like an important stepping stone to the utopian future we’ve all been promised. Maybe they’ll even make wearing sunglasses at night cool again. Well, maybe not.