12 July 2011

Revisiting Electrochromic Polymers

In the concept stage of the original Suki series I wanted the environment to be a believable version of 2030s consumer items, rather than going to the extremes of technology, i.e., flying cars vs. dogs and sledges.  Being old, with a decent memory, helped.  I can remember how many items that I use evolved between the early 1960s and today, so I chose to extend those trends into the future.

Of course, my own biases creep into my world building.  Automobile technology in Suki's world is still familiar to anybody who drove a car in 2007, but different cars have different uses.  John's limousine has features for comfort and pleasure for passengers in the back, as well as features in the cockpit to give the most jaded chauffeur an orgasm.  The idea was an extension of current compartmentalization seen in executive aircraft and limousines of today, the driver's business is up front and the passengers tend to their business in the back.  The passenger compartment can be reconfigured from a mini boardroom, to a screening room by simply switching from flat screen TV, which also serves as the sliding separator between the cockpit and the back, to the holographic viewer.  For a more intimate ride, the seats slide to other configurations at the touch of a button, powered by actuators.  I think that I left the actuator specifics ambiguous while I was thinking hydraulics.

The other cars mentioned in the series stuck to the same theme of function determining features.  The race cars followed rules I invented for a new racing series, South American Stock Car (SASCAR), with street bodies and "trick" everything else.  John and Suki's vehicles reflected the style of the characters in both series.  John builds and drives classic MOPARs that are all restomod, because that fits the older character and I made that the most lucrative market for his classic car business.  That was the same in both series, although I did give him a British make limo in Suki With A Twist, the drivetrain is MOPAR.  Suki's lifestyle is different between series, so in the original she still has the same Jeep that she bought while an undergrad to reflect her practical/frugal nature.  In the new series, she has a collection of classic foreign cars, all stock, all sporty.  Although the Suki character is not frugal at all in the second series, her style still remains rooted in classic taste.

In the above examples, every single item in the cars was thought through.  Every single item exists today and is probably used somewhere in the exact manner described in my books, whether I was aware of it or not.  In hindsight, I could have used electrochromic polymers in more places than clothing, like in room decoration, vehicle interiors and exteriors, office settings, etc.  I could plead that I chose to not over use that bit of technology, but the fact is quite simply, I only saw it as a way to make women's fashions more interesting.  In the original series, I mentioned them in boots and dresses of the more flamboyant minor characters.  Twenty-something women in various scenes wore boots and dresses that morphed color.  Later, in the "alternate future" series Suki With A Twist, people in all walks of life, from the most expensive paid companions/prostitutes to everyday people who want a more versatile wardrobe, wear full outfits, from shoes to wigs, made from the material.

I "discovered"  electrochromic polymers via a simple internet search for color morphing material, hoping there was some research into plastics with this quality.  That was where I discovered the term and "invented" some future slang to describe it in speech: EC.  I extended this a bit, using EM for "electromorphic" for materials that could change pattern as well as color.  That concept did not come to mind until I was writing Suki With A Twist and the concept was applied by using multiple EC fibers, each with a limited color range, weaving them together and controlling them to give a combined visual effect.  Similar to the way a television image is presented today.

The progress in electrochromic polymers is amazing to witness.  I found this story about research in 2001 when I was doing the initial book research.  I will leave you with some interesting articles that I have found since then:
An experiment for making your own
Single-Layer Electrochromic Polymer Technology for Automotive and Architectural Glazing Light Control
Multi-Color Electrochromic Polymer Coatings
Orange and Red to Transmissive Electrochromic Polymers Based on Electron-Rich Dioxythiophenes

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