Foresight Analysis: Phosphorescence

Surface and Material Trends

Mackay Design Studio

In this updated version, first seen in issue 38 of MIX Magazine, we take a look at phosphorescence; its fleeting, other-worldly glow an intrinsic part of its appeal.

While it’s easy to dismiss glow in the dark materials as nothing more than a novelty, useful only for toys, paint, and clock dials, designers are now exploring new and sophisticated ways to play with the unique properties of phosphorescence.

In our trend Abyss, inspiration is drawn from an altogether strange and appealing source, phosphorescence found in the deep ocean. “We have only discovered three per cent of the ocean and all the weird creatures, bright colours and phosphorescence found there; I think the luminous colours of the deep ocean will be extremely directional in the future,” says Judith van Vliet, Designer, Clariant ColorWorks Europe/IMEA.

Predictably artists have been at the forefront of experimentation with what is possible with phosphorescence. There is interesting work from artist Miya Ando, with Obon, who created an artwork featuring 1000 resin and phosphorescence-coated leaves floating on water. And an inspiring blend of science and art with Montana State University’s Bioglyph project, working with living bioluminescent bacteria, formed into intricate man made patterns.

Creative architectural lighting specialists Mackay Design Studio has experimented using phosphorescent yarn with the intention of creating fabric to wrap around architectural structures. This example has been formed into a light fitting which glows when the light source is switched off. “Phosphoresce has a magical quality; Light radiating from within and then fading imperceptibly.  In my work there is a connection to bioluminescence which constantly intrigues me and inspires my sculptural forms,” explains Neil Musson, artist and designer, Mackay Design Studio.

There’s more lighting from Responsive Design Studio, with Oooglow, made from phosphorescent polyester resin. The lamp is equipped with a LED light that doesn’t heat up the plastic but sufficiently charges the luminescent pigments. Once the light is turned off the lamp emits a greenish glow over a period of several hours.

A sophisticated glow that gently fades could provide a very credible alternative to more abrasive light solutions. And, with paint, ink and fabric providing the necessary raw materials easily and often cost effectively, the applications for phosphorescent materials could stretch well beyond fair ground necklaces and bracelets, far into the future.