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Light sensitive coatings

Summary of technology

Protection of the eyes and skin from ultra-violet (UV) and visible light is essential in many walks of life – for example the general risk of skin cancers from exposure to the sun, or burns, cataract problems and blindness from exposure to arc welding without adequate goggles. This platform technology is a “smart” molecule that changes colour in a matter of milliseconds when exposed to UV light. It reverts to being colourless when the UV source is removed. The colour adopted and the speed of response can be customised in any particular batch of the chemical, and it is likely that the minimum response time can be reduced further.

It has the potential to be used in applications such as the visors of welding helmets, in the lenses of self-darkening safety glasses and sunglasses, as a simple reusable UV sensor, or novel materials in the fashion industry. The chemical nature of the change (colourful <-> colourless) is linked to a change in the position of electrical charges on the molecule. It is therefore possible to expand this technology to antifouling and antibacterial coatings (medical instruments or larger metal surfaces at risk of biofouling and increased drag or corrosion).


This platform technology has the potential to:

  • Replace more expensive existing technologies such as UV meters
  • Remove the risks in welding of continually raising and lowering the helmet to inspect work between welds. It engineers out the problem.
  • Provide quicker response to dark/shade in sunglasses


Dr Nadim Darwish and Dr Simone Ciampi are researchers at the Curtin Institute of Functional Molecules and Interfaces. Dr Darwish specialises in material engineering and Dr Ciampi specialises in electrochemistry. Their work has been funded by several grants from the Australian Research Council and features in high-profile journals such as Nature.

Stage of development

The concept has been validated at laboratory scale and can be demonstrated.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property is owned by Curtin University. There is the potential to protect the chemical composition, nature of additives and physical formulation of the coating as well as the details of the manufacturing process.


We are looking for a materials/biotech/optics company with an interest in these or other applications to collaborate on optimising the compounds, scaling production, with a view to a commercial licence of the intellectual property in order to partner with device manufacturers.


Roger Plumb, Business Development Manager, Commercialisation, Curtin University


Phone: +61 8 9266 4925