What Is Thermochromic Paint?

Written by siobhan egan
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What Is Thermochromic Paint?
Thermochromatic paint is used to create novelty mugs with changing designs. (Mugs image by anna karwowska from Fotolia.com)

Thermochromism is the ability of a substance to change colour in response to a change in temperature. Thermochromic paint changes colour or transparency based on temperature. There are different applications for this technology in the marketplace.


There are two basic types of thermochromic technology: liquid crystal and leuco dye. Liquid crystals respond to precise changes in temperature but their colour range is limited. A typical example is the mood ring, popularised in the 1970s. Leuco dyes permit a wider colour range but their response to temperature is less precise.


Thermochromic paint is a more recent application of this technology and uses either liquid crystal or leuco dye. After absorbing a certain amount of light or heat, the crystal or molecular structure of the pigment is temporarily altered to absorb and emit light at a different wavelength than at lower temperatures, thus changing colour. The process is reversible.


Thermochromic paints are commonly used on novelty coffee mugs to make designs on the mug appear, disappear or temporarily change. When you pour hot beverages into a mug coated with thermochromic paint on the outside, the coating absorbs the heat. It changes colour or becomes transparent and in this way changes the appearance of the design.

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