Pollution, especially air pollution is one of the gravest problems of our modern age. And we have seen some incredibly artistic and creative ways adopted by climate change activists and artists in order to bring light to this issue. From smartphone sensors to portable personal pollution monitors and even the backpack-wearing pollution-monitoring pigeons. we have come a long way. Now a NYC designer has tried to contribute on the same lines by introducing a line of shirts which are sensitive to the pollutants in the air.
This line of shirts are called Aerochromics and are the brainchild of the “artist/designer/performance artist” Nikolas Bentel. Bentel cooperated with the Autodesk Applied Research Lab and managed to develop three different shirts which change their color when exposed to contaminants in the atmosphere. One of them changes in the presence of carbon monoxide, the other changes when particle pollution (like excessive dust) is present. The third one reacts in the presence of radioactivity. When exposed to the contaminants, the shirts turn black and all their patterns are hidden, which come back when the contaminants are removed from the surroundings.
According to the designer, each shirt works in a slightly different way. In the carbon monoxide shirt the fabric is embedded with chemical salts, which when touched by carbon dioxide lose an oxygen molecule and get reduced. This causes eventually the whole shirt to go black. When the air clears the salts once again start absorbing oxygen molecules from the air and get oxidized. Thus they turn back to white, revealing the pattern again.
The second shirt, i.e. the particle pollution shirt is equipped with two small sensors, one on the front and one on the back of the shirt. The sensors are programmed to pick particle pollution in the air like dust, soot or smoke etc. And as soon as they detect such contaminants, a signal is sent to a microcontroller embedded in the shirt’s collar. The microcontroller then sends a signal to the patches placed behind heat-activated dots on the shirt, which warms them up. When the patches warm up the dyes on the dots change and turn them from white to black.
The radioactivity shirt is still in the design phase and is being worked on to function through a chemical process indicator dye. This dye changes from white to black depending on exposure to gamma or electron beam radiation. Hence the shirt also goes black, but unlike its two counterparts, it cannot turn back to white.
Although the designer insists that this is part of his fashion line, the shirts seem like more of an art project that can be great proponents of climate change activism. Also, the price of US$650 for the radiation cost and $500 for the other two does not make it very easy to purchase for the common man. It certainly cannot be treated as a normal shirt as tossing all the microprocessors and sensors ridden shirt into the washing machine doesn’t seem like a very bright idea.
Bentel says that water won’t hurt the sealed electronics. Also he is looking to bring down the shirt price down, but is waiting for the type of demand and reaction his product can generate.
Here’s a video explaining the concept and the science behind these shirts.
Would you buy a $500 shirt for the sake of climate change and antipollution vocalization?