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The expert's eye

Smart materials: a societal evolution


From time immemorial, our societies have adapted and perfected themselves. The first civilizations were built with the natural materials available: wood, stone, leather, bone, horn, linen or hemp.

We then saw the emergence of plastics and composites structures with implications all around us, in the construction, automotive, aeronautics, sports and military sectors.

We are now entering the third generation of multifunctional materials, capable of adapting structures to their environment. This is the world of smart materials. This is a real revolution for the 21st century, just as important as the revolution in communication or biotechnology.

Are you looking for a smart coating?


Everyday, OliKrom produces smart materials with thermochromic (color change with temperature), photochromic (color change with light), piezochromic (color change with pressure), luminescent (fluorescent / phosphorescent), chemochromic (color change with a gas or a solvent) properties of pigments, inks and paints.

We work in all industrial sectors: aeronautics, food, automotive, construction, cosmetics, defense, energy, luxury, medical, transportation...

Our teams of researchers and engineers are constantly looking for new effects and developing new synthesis methods to obtain high performance coatings and polymers. Do not hesitate to discover our SmartKrom® products and smart innovative approach based on the intelligence of colors.

The home of tomorrow

We can consider that the houses of tomorrow as well as the offices will be populated with interactive materials, with smart structures, smart sensors, smart polymers... The house was first a passive shelter to protect itself from the cold or bad weather. It became active with the arrival of fluids, energy, water and gas.

It has acquired "muscles" with household robots. It becomes really interactive with the telephone, television and Internet.

But the walls themselves and the partitions made of smart materials will be endowed with functions and properties that will revolutionize building in the years to come. Linked to sensors (notably involving the color change associated to thermochromic, photochromic, and/or piezochromic coatings), these materials will revolutionize the way we live in the homes of tomorrow.

Unlike passive materials capable of fighting noise or heat loss (like cork or glass wool), interactive materials will be able to adapt to their environment like a sensitive "skin". Tomorrow's materials will improve the habitat and our relationship with energy. For example, based on photochromic and/or thermochromic properties darken a window when the light becomes too strong, when the external thermal energy is too high.

Biopolymers of tomorrow

One of the most spectacular breakthroughs in the field of smart materials has been achieved in the area of biopolymer chemistry. These biomaterials have many applications in the fields of biotechnology and medicine.

Silk, collagen, cellulose, elastin, are natural biomaterials that have been known for a long time. Recently, it has been realized that synthetic biomaterials can be used to treat or replace certain tissues, organs, or body functions. For example, certain polymer capsules implanted in the body allow the passage of molecules capable of permanently treating body ailments. Other biomaterials can be used as prostheses or heart valves.

Several laboratories use collagen, cellulose or even coral as a matrix from which natural cells, by dividing, reconstitute a damaged or missing part of an organ. For example, noses have been reconstructed by growing skin cells on such matrices, constituting a biodegradable scaffold.

Advances in chemistry, biotechnology and nanotechnology are opening up new avenues for the materials of the future. The era of smart materials has only just begun.

DNA, proteins and polysaccharides are intelligent biological materials. They are able to conduct energy at a distance, to react to environmental stimuli, to change shape, to recognize other molecules, to catalyze the fabrication of supramolecular structures. One of the goals of researchers in the field of smart materials is to be able to manufacture DNA biocomputers and mass memories using photosensitive proteins.

Smart textiles

Another category of materials, with spectacular applications for our daily life, are the "interactive textiles".

These are polymers capable of changing color locally according to a certain number of physical parameters, such as the passage of a small electric current, an increase in temperature or mechanical stress. Eventually, the coloring of a fabric will be produced by polymers capable of creating images, as if it were a computer liquid crystal screen worn on the back or on the chest.

It is easy to imagine the applications of these systems in the military sector, especially for camouflage. Combat suits made from these pigments, bearing tiny video cameras capable of detecting changes in the environment and immediately adapting the color of the combat suit to the conditions in which it is found. The infantryman of the future thus becomes a kind of chameleon capable of blending into his environment.

In the future, we can imagine combining information processing systems based on molecules with systems that serve as the basis for interactive textiles. It would thus become possible to wear computers on oneself where the communication systems would allow man to interface with the networks that surround him. We are gradually moving from computers and cell phones to "wearable" computers and phones.

Some of these applications are still at the research stage, but it is only a matter of weeks, of years to become reality...

A so-called smart material (pigment, ink, paint, coating…) is capable of spontaneously changing its physical properties (notably its shape, viscosity, color…) in response to natural […]

Sensitive, reactive, these so-called intelligent materials transform and switch color under the influence of heat, light or mechanical stimulation (stretching, impact). Behind this SmartKrom® property, these materials involve a physical process of phase transition linked to a modification of the structure. This is not magic! […]