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What is Luminous Fabric?

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  • Written By: Michael Anissimov
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Luminous fabric, or photoluminescent fabric, is a new type of textile based on either fiber optics or LEDs. This fabric is currently (as of April 2007) sold by only three companies: Luminex, headquartered in Italy, LumiGram, a French luxuries company, and Philips, the global electronics giant. The luminous fabric uses low-voltage (3-5 V) batteries to provide a pleasant glow in any color. Specific designs can produce varying intensities, allowing patterns or pictures to be embedded in the fabric. Luminous fabric is a good example of a product that is just starting out, and observing its adoption will be an interesting case study in product economics and sociology.

Since fiber optics were invented in the 1970s, companies have experimented with the idea of luminous fabrics, but it's not until now - the late 00s - that the technology is truly workable. This is thanks to advances in optics and materials science. Different approaches are being used: Luminex and LumiGram are going with fiber optics, whereas Philips uses tiny LEDs. Both approaches require batteries, and produce negligible heat despite their luminosity. Batteries must be removed before washing. The luminous fabric must be hand-washed, and, while relatively flexible, will break if folded directly in half.

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Luminous fabric, unlike neon and glow-in-the-dark lights, provides a subtle, multicolored light making it much better suited to various design schemes. Luminous fabric is interesting because while it has recently become available, it is up for the customers to come up with creative uses for it, which could in turn determine how popular it ultimately becomes. A few ideas: luminous pillows, table placements, bedspreads, draperies, paintings, etc. It could also be useful for night clubs, temporary street signs, parties, Halloween decorations, and many more uses.

Work is underway to embed sensors within the luminous fabric which would allow it to respond to environmental cues such as temperature, moisture, or wind. A room covered with temperature-sensitive fabric could be an amazing sight. A blouse that responds to the vibrations produced by the heart would truly be a unique class of clothing and a novel form of human expression. The potential for this fabric is obviously quite large, and it seems likely we'll see it pop up in homes, restaurants, and clubs in the years to come.

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anon956490
Post 7

In the midst of all these circuits for the LED, doesn't it shock the wearer?

anon289632
Post 6

Who invented glowing fabric?

browncoat
Post 5

If you have a look on the Phillips website you can see some videos in which they demonstrate what people have done with the luminous fabric. It's really quite lovely.

I think it's probably too expensive for ordinary people at the moment, but I hope the price comes down eventually. I can think of a lot of different ways I could use that kind of novelty fabric to decorate my home.

croydon
Post 4

@gder1234 - Most of the time heat reflective fabrics are quite uncomfortable to wear (when the reflective surface is on the inside). That said, there are emergency blankets and things like that available at camping stores and military sale stores. You could try there.

Most fabrics are designed to capture heat, rather than reflect it back, as it doesn't really make much difference once they are on.

You might want to go and chat with someone at a really good hiking store, one that caters to mountain climbers, as they could tell you a lot about the different available fabrics and maybe give you some tips on finding the ones you want.

KoiwiGal
Post 3

@anon12861 - From the article, it sounds like heat sensitive fabric is still being developed. It will probably involve actual temperature sensitive sensors embedded in the fabric rather than a material that is naturally sensitive to temperature changes, I think.

But, I would say Phillips is your best chance at getting bulk yardage of luminous fabric in general.

The other two options mentioned by the article seemed like they would be more expensive than Phillips, who is probably more likely to act as a fabric wholesalers.

I'd look them up online and see if they have info, or maybe even give them a call if you have questions. Good luck!

gder1234
Post 2

Where can I purchase heat reflective fabrics - this fabric should be able to reflect heat generated by the human body back to the body.

anon12861
Post 1

do you know where I can purchase bulk yardage of heat-sensitive fabric for fashion design?

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