What is thermochromic paint? Where is it used?

  • Thermochromic paint is not just a novelty item as it has many practical uses.
  • Alerting someone to a potentially hot surface using thermochromic paint is not only extremely practical but can help to avoid serious injuries.
  • Imagine a bottle of Coors beer which alerts you when it is at its optimum temperature…
  • Many food and beverages are best consumed at a specific temperature and using thermochromic paint it is possible to specify different colours for different temperature ranges.

Before we look at the many reasons why you would use thermochromic paint, it is worth reminding ourselves exactly what we are talking about. In simple terms, thermochromic paint contains either liquid crystals or leuco dyes which literally change colour depending on the temperature of the surface to which have been applied/immediate atmosphere. It is fair to say that in the early days they tended to be used in novelty items but as the substance was developed further it very quickly became clear that it actually has a practical use in the modern world.

Is thermochromic paint safe?

If you think about it, there are numerous occasions in your everyday lives where a warning about the temperature of a particular product or surface would be helpful. This can include anything from a traditional kettle which will turn a specific colour depending on the temperature – how many of us have burned our hands on a hot kettle over the years – to children’s toys, feeding spoons and baby baths. The ability to be instantly aware of the temperature is extremely useful.

While often seen as a novelty item, even a simple coffee mug which reacts to the temperature does have practical uses such as in care homes and special needs units. The use of thermochromic paint to warn about a hot cooker and other heating equipment is something which many people will never even have thought about. There is even the option to use the special paints on road signs to alert drivers to specific temperatures such as freezing. It is imperative that you adapt your driving style in freezing temperatures so what better way to alert you – a potential life saver?

Food and beverages

The introduction of thermochromic paints with food and beverages is another area you would not automatically think of but it can be especially useful. Food wrappings and food containers are perfect for these types of paints because instantly you can see whether a product is hot or cold. Some foods are best served cold while others warm or even piping hot. Then there are the beverages!

You will no doubt have noticed that brewer Coors likes to advertise the fact that certain of its products are best served chilled or at a specific temperature. Interestingly, they have used the idea of thermochromic paint on their beer bottles where specific colours can be introduced to represent specific temperatures. So, if the beer label is white you know the product is cool and if it is a dark colour you know that it may need some time in the fridge. It is possible to adapt thermochromic paint to show particular colours, or even a particular image, at a certain temperature.

Interior design

While there is no doubt that the ability to be instantly alerted about the temperature of a surface is very useful, this type of paint can also be aesthetic and practical. One very interesting use which may surprise many is the simple colour of a wall which reacts to the temperature around it. Well, what about a paint which could potentially save you money on energy in the long run?

Imagine an interior or even exterior wall which changes to white when hot. We know that lighter colours reflect more sunlight and can have an impact upon the amount of air conditioning and lighting required. This is before we even begin to look at the design options available to those more adventurous interior designers willing to consider something a little different.

Superheroes!

Such have been the developments in thermochromic paints that it is actually possible to have an image under the “natural surface” which only shows in hot or cold temperatures. Many of us will have seen those eye-catching car designs where a traditional looking car bonnet instantly changes into a superhero image by simply pouring hot water over the surface. Whether this particular use is for everybody is debatable! The video below demonstrates a good example of the same technique, showing how thermochromic paint is combined with hydrographic printing to achieve an amazing effect

Not just a novelty product

As we have shown above, while there are an array of novelty uses for thermochromic paints they do also assist in many practical situations such as safety and optimum temperatures alerts for food and beverages. Perhaps the novelty car designs, where a totally different image appears when hot water is poured over the surface, do not help to allay the novelty tag but if you dig a little deeper there is much more to this than meets the eye.

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