The intelligence of colors

The association of “intelligence” and “colors

At OliKrom, we like to associate the words “intelligence” and “colors” because it is possible to modulate the optical response of materials according to a disturbance to create a dialogue with a “host”, like a transmitter and a receiver.

As an illustration, most of the coatings around us are passive and have a single color. But the insertion of thermochromic pigments creates a new functionality, the ability to change color with temperature. The coating of an engine becomes capable of changing color as soon as the temperature exceeds 60°C to alert an operator of the risk of burning…

This is the world of smart materials. They are capable of spontaneously modifying their physical properties, and in particular their color, in response to natural or provoked excitations coming from the outside or the inside of the material: variations of temperature, luminosity, mechanical constraints, gaseous atmosphere, ionic polarity…

Over the years, OliKrom has developed a unique expertise in color intelligence. Our teams (researchers, doctors, engineers, etc.) have mastered this process, from the scale of the intelligent pigment to the finished product in the form of ink and paint.

Like an electronic engineer, we parameterize the material. The choice of components, alloys, systems or structures involved in the switching process allows us to adjust the memory effect or even the phenomenon of fatigability to anticipate and signal the wear of an object.

This know-how leads us to accompany many companies from all industrial sectors in the development of innovative projects. Depending on the targeted innovation, we adapt the optical response of materials to interact with the vision of a human, an animal or a robot.

Optimizing the interaction between intelligent materials and human vision

The objective here is to modulate the optical property of a smart material to create an interaction with the human eye.

The signal processing can be used to detect a color change for industrial safety purposes. In this context, our teams calibrate the optical modulation of the material to respond to the desired energy source: temperature, light, pressure, etc. Signal processing is carried out at the molecular level to control the switching properties: reversibility (or irreversibility), memory effect, energy threshold, choice of colors, etc. 

Other requests concern the perception of an object according to the intensity emitted by the environment. The stakes (and the uses) are multiple: to reinforce the visibility at night (road safety, sea rescue,…), or even the perception during the day to enhance a color (aestheticism, luxury, cosmetics, watchmaking,…).

In order to respond to such applications, it is necessary to integrate the fact that our ability to distinguish a color or a luminosity varies according to our age and the light intensity emitted by our immediate environment. This requires our teams to optimize the optical response of materials according to the predominant process: scotopic vision (night vision), mesopic vision (twilight vision), photopic vision (day vision) or glare effect. We adjust the photochemical cascade of the pigment(s), the quantum yield, the excitation and emission wavelengths, the luminescent/phosphorescent processes involved. 

Optimizing the interaction between intelligent materials and animal vision

The applications in this scientific sector are varied. They have the common objective of creating an interaction with the animal kingdom. If we consider animal vision, it is a multi-faceted sector where each species has its particularities. The cat, for example, has excellent vision that allows it to perceive ultraviolet light. Other species are almost myopic but sensitive to luminosity.

This is a challenge that our research and development teams are taking up. This requires us to customize the chemical composition of intelligent materials to modulate the optical response according to the stimulus and the targeted species.

Optimizing the interaction between intelligent materials and the bionic eye

The wealth of materials and technological building blocks developed by OliKrom offer multiple application opportunities to create a modification of the optical response detectable by a robot, a camera, a drone, a satellite,…

For example, the GRTGaz group has selected OliKrom to develop a breakthrough technology for monitoring gas leaks by drone detection. In order to create this optical material-machine interaction and to provide information on the danger, our research laboratory programs the material. It is a real information processing at the molecular level to select the right effect, the right absorption and/or emission wavelength, the sensitivity of the detection thresholds, the selectivity of the targeted gas, the triggering speed, without forgetting all the business constraints inherent to this activity sector.

This is a rapidly expanding field of application. Our researchers are involved in many innovative projects associated with Industry 4.0, predictive maintenance, production process automation, future mobility

Areas of use

Today, we exploit the intelligence of colors in many industrial sectors: to amplify (or on the contrary to camouflage) the aspect of a product, to substitute certain components, to program the change of color with a constraint (temperature, light, pressure, humidity, gas,…) in order to raise a signal of alarm, of good use, a key of security of anti-counterfeiting… 

Here are some examples of applications.


  • Threshold temperature indicators / industrial pipes, thermal mapping.
  • Display: visual aid in the detection of ice.
  • Indicator of “health matter”, gauge effort, shock detection (Aeronautic & Navy).
  • Control: Temperature Indicator for monitoring sensitive products: cold chain, transport & medical vaccines or blood products.
  • Sterilization indicator: labels or inks.
  • Adhesives: indicator of adhesion, optimum drying.
  • Food Packaging: temperature indicator for the consumption of a product: beer, wine, vodka, champagne, cans and bottles, hot and cold drinks, baby food.

Traceability / Infringement

  • Irreversible overheat indicator of industrial processes.
  • Security inks: offset ink for ticketing, games, secure access badges.
  • Infringement Indicator: branded article, banknote.

Decoration /  marketing / Advertising

  • Plastic toys: decor with changing color, labels, packaging, paper / plastic promotional, “dynamic” advertising inserts.
  • Cosmetics: Bottles & Jars of cosmetic or perfume.
  • Smart Textiles: comfort indicator, clarification of the textile with temperature.


Read more.





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