OliKrom: a painting that illuminates the roads at night

The startup from Gironde OliKrom has developed a phosphorescent paint that shines at night.

Another bright idea for the company specializing in smart pigments that react to heat, impact and chemicals.

“It’s fabulous, it looks like a trick,” Mayor of Pessac (Gironde) is enthusiastic. Since October, the two kilometers of cycle track that crosses an undergrowth in the district of Saige, is turning into a shining path after-dark. The darker it is, the more it shines! The secret of this magic? A phosphorescent painting invented by the OliKrom startup. “It contains chemical pigments that absorb sunlight and restore it at night,” says Jean François Létard, its founder. “We can see the road between 50 and 100 meters more than with traditional signage” adds the director, former research director at the Institute of Condensed Matter Chemistry of Bordeaux (ICMCB), dependent on the CNRS. The phosphorescent effect lasts about ten hours, enough to hold all night. The formula of the painting, whose implementation has been entrusted to Eiffage, is classified top secret.

The phosphorescent paint invented by the Olikrom startup contains pigments that illuminate the road up to 100 meters. © Olikrom

The phosphorescent paint invented by the Olikrom startup contains pigments that illuminate the road up to 100 meters. © Olikrom

Avoid electrical wiring work

Phosphorescent paint is now awaiting approval for road marking. “We will be able to equip all the places at risk, such as crosswalks, donkeys, dangerous bends, bus stops or highway ramps,” says Jean Francois Létard. Ideal also in small villages, country roads often poorly lit, or to delimit the parking spaces. The price per liter is of course higher, “but it can not be compared with a simple white paint”, insists Jean François Létard. “Our paint avoids all infrastructure costs such as wiring to pass the electrical wires of street lamps and the cost of electricity.”

Paints reactive to heat, impact or gas

The phosphorescent paint is only one of the many products developed by OliKrom. The startup manufactures a range of specialized pigments: industrial paints and coatings that change color in the presence of a solvent (solvatochrome) or a gas (chemochrome), thermochromic and piezochromic inks that react to a temperature change or to the pressure … For Safran, OliKrom has developed temperature-sensitive coatings to map the temperatures of each component of a running engine. “The color evolves according to the temperatures undergone”, explains Jean François Létard. Airbus, for its part, demanded a piezochromic paint to locate a shock on the frame of an aircraft. Which make the inspection of the cabin much easier! The startup is also considering extending this application to the automotive, wind energy industry and water sports. On the rise, OliKrom has just opened its first production site near Pessac, in the New Aquitaine Region.

OliKrom's intelligent pigments react to pressure, temperature or gases. © OliKrom

OliKrom’s intelligent pigments react to pressure, temperature or gases. © OliKrom

Olikrom, in numbers and dates

  • Domain: smart pigments
  • Founder: Jean François Létard
  • Amount of fundraising: 4.8 M€
  • 2005: first international patent
  • 2009: creation of the OliKrom-Adera transfer cell to accompany the maturation of the new generation of revolutionary materials.
  • 2014: creation of OliKrom and the raising of funds (300 k €) to start the industrialization of its smart products
  • 2017: 2nd round of fundraising (€ 4.5 million) to accelerate industrial and commercial development
  • 2018: acquisition of the industrial site, the R & D center and production unit

Link to the french article by Céline Deluzarch, Journalist Futura Sciences