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Decorative Applications for Self-Organized Molecular Electrochromic Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - DecoChrom (Decorative Applications for Self-Organized Molecular Electrochromic Systems)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-06-30

The DecoChrom project aimed to elevate printed graphics products to the age of interactivity, and empower the creative industries with the tools and innovative advanced material sets to design and build aesthetically pleasing practical human interfaces to smart consumer goods and environments. The DecoChrom consortium developed printed electrochromics (EC) as the mass producible, print industry compatible, ultra low-power interactive graphics solution for ambient intelligence. The project worked to scale up the production of advanced composite materials towards 3 innovative ink EC colors, and develop manufacturing processes on different substrate materials (plastic foil, high-pressure laminates and injection molded plastic). The project included wide dissemination activities including numerous hands-on workshops to introduce electrochromics to designers, makers and the printing industry, and the development of a toolkit to support the design process. To explore and demonstrate the potential of the technology the project created more than 50 functional end-user prototypes and in the areas of architecture, interior design, lifestyle and sports.
The work packages (WP) in DecoChrom have addressed the following topics:

During the project, WP1 has explored the synthesis and scale up of electrochromic materials. The main achievements were: a) the synthesis of multiple new red and black electrochromic polymers; b) the development of novel methods for the synthesis of electrochromic polymers with colour tuning; c) the introduction of these new polymers in functioning, fully characterized, electrochromic devices presenting long lifetime and fast switching time; d) the building of a ITO-free electrochromic device using newly developed electrodes; e)the optimisation of the synthetic procedures for upscaling of electrochromic polymers; f) production of blue and red EC inks developed for printing.

WP2, focusing on the creation of EC displays, has achieved: a) the successful over-molding of functional EC devices including higher-temperature polymers such as PC and PMMA as well as TPU; b) optimisation of the conditions to develop and manufacture a functional baseline of embedded EC in high pressure laminates; c) the effective production of EC display samples to support parallel developments across the project; d) high area EC flexible films and devices for large area EC applications; e) Optimised the process of red ink printing by flexo, rotogravure and S2S screen-printing demonstrating a new EC ink colour printable by an industrial technique. f) demonstrated the industrial printing in R2R of functional materials in paper substrate (conductive polymer, silver, and carbon inks).

WP3 provided cross-disciplinary input to the DecoChrom project bringing together material science, electronics and design. It has designed complementing electronic components, developed integration techniques, and provided enabling components and component integration technologies for the developed prototypes and demos.

In the Design and Pilots work package (WP4), over 50 functional prototypes illustrating potential end-user products have been designed and developed, many utilising the new electrochromic materials developed in the project. Various display printing and assembly techniques have been explored and a toolkit, enabling artists and designers to create EC displays, has been delivered.

For the project dissemination (WP5), a broad range of dissemination channels were established. One key element were the 25 hands-on workshops that were run, where over 340 participants learned to design and build electrochromic displays. Another channel was the Special Interest Groups, which enabled direct engagement with interested partners from industry and academia with the project, e.g. through custom workshops and prototypes. DecoChrom activities have been presented at over 90 events, such as leading industry exhibitions, including CES, Interzum, PrintoCent Innofest, oe-a electronica, Slush and IDTechEx, as well as major scientific conferences, such as IME, ACM CHI and ACM NordiCHI as well as presentations at institutes such as the European Academy of Science (EURASC). Furthermore, several exhibitions specifically targeting the creative industries took place.

WP6, focused on lifecycle issues and user acceptance. In the work, the environmental lifecycle assessment (LCA) and lifecycle cost (LCC) impacts of five exemplary products developed in the DecoChrom that included electrochromic display elements were evaluated. The outputs of the work highlighted the life cycle phases and materials having the largest environmental impact, and effect to CAPEX and OPEX. To explore issues impacting the user acceptance of products integrating electrochromic displays, datasets were collected from experienced electrochromic display designers and end users. This provided insights into how ECDs are perceived aesthetically and functionally and, based on this, a strategy of improving ECD properties to address designer concerns and end user desires can be developed.
The targeted impacts have been addressed through:

1) Design prototypes demonstrating benefits such as: a) Calm, aesthetic interfaces embedded into living environments (e.g. smart wallpaper and embedded weather display) b) Flexible EC displays, integrated into footwear and clothing. c) Dynamic customisation through embedding EC elements in clothing.

2) Steps towards integration into end-user products through: a) The red ink developed in the project. Which is the first red EC ink suitable for screen-printing and rotogravure, and provides an extended EC colour palette, to address designer requirements b) The designer toolkit, enabling designers to begin prototyping with EC materials c) New approaches for electronic integration of EC displays in new materials and structures demonstrated by the developed EC integrations in high pressure laminates (EC-HPL) and injection moulding.

3) New innovation strategies and practices along the value chain have been addressed by: a) Leveraging the printed electronics know-how and infrastructure of the project partners towards new application areas. b) Demonstrating the broad potential for EC displays, beyond the current labelling and window shading, through the wide variety of prototypes delivered by the project.

4) Increasing the awareness of designers about new materials through numerous hands-on workshops and the establishment of a Special Interest Group, supported by the delivered designer toolkit enabling designers and the maker community to start working with printed electrochromics.
DecoChrom: Examples of the deliverables achieved during period 1