Nikolas Bentel designs shirts that react to changes in pollution

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Nikolas Bentel designs shirts that change colour when exposed to air pollution

New York designer Nikolas Bentel has developed a range of patterned shirts that change colour in response to air pollution or radioactivity (+ movie).

Bentel's Aerochromics collection of three cotton shirts has patterns printed in a colour-changing dye that Bentel claims has never before been applied to consumer clothing.

Nikolas Bentel designs shirts that react to changes in pollution

Each piece is named after and features a pattern inspired by the pollutant it reacts to, from carbon monoxide and particle pollution to radioactivity.

"I am personally interested in pollution and global warming," Bentel told Dezeen. "A lot of my work is some form of social design."

Nikolas Bentel designs shirts that react to changes in pollution

"The science for all of these pieces of clothing exist and is easy to find, but it has never been applied to consumer-grade clothing."

The Carbon Monoxide shirt functions in a similar way to a carbon monoxide spot detector, which features a patch that turns black when carbon monoxide is present and clear when the air around it is stabilised.

Nikolas Bentel designs shirts that react to changes in pollution

As carbon monoxide comes into contact with the shirt, the gas is oxidised by chemical salts in the dye, a process that changes the dye's colour to white as it loses oxygen atoms.

Once the carbon monoxide's removed from the air, different chemical salts made from metals absorb oxygen from the air. This changes the dye back to its original chemical form, and the colour to black again.

Nikolas Bentel designs shirts that react to changes in pollution

The Particle Pollution shirt changes colour through a thermo-reactive dye. It features two small sensors, one on its front and one on its back.

When the shirt is exposed to particle pollution like dust, soot or smog, the sensors alert a small controller embedded into the collar of the shirt.

Nikolas Bentel designs shirts that react to changes in pollution

Each dot in the pattern is connected to a circular heat pad that is activated by the controller, making the thermo-reactive dye change colour as the patch heats up.

The dye on the Radioactivity shirt changes from black to white depending upon gamma rays or electron beam radiation. As exposure increases, the pattern becomes darker and darker, and once you have been exposed to too much radiation, the shirt will not change back to black.

Nikolas Bentel designs shirts that react to changes in pollution

Bentel isn't the first designer to create clothes that respond to their environment. Two engineering professors from the University of California created a bikini that absorbs pollution from the sea, and a team of Dutch designers developed a garment that purifies the polluted air surrounding the wearer.

Meanwhile, Dutch designers Studio Roosegaarde and Anouk Wipprecht created clothing that responds to the wearer, turning transparent in response to excitement or embarrassment.

"Responsive garments are everywhere right now, from the Apple Watch to many speculative projects," said Bentel. "I believe that there is a need for more natural interfaces."

"If a user can communicate with the objects that they are already using such as the shirt on their back, then there should be no need for extra gadgets."