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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Chloe So

Chloe is an entrepreneurial multidisciplinary designer interested in the intersection of design, emerging materials and consumer products. Her design practice focuses on making our world more circular through investigating waste materials and by-products as novel materials and technology. Prior to her master’s, she worked for a venture capital startup accelerator in NYC focused on consumer goods and retail tech, and has helped over 15 startups find product market fit. 

She completed her bachelor’s degree at Brown University and double majored in Engineering (B.A) and an independent concentration called Design and Cognition (B.A), which studies psychology and design.

Portrait of Designer, Chloe So.

I see design as a tool to make an impact through interdisciplinary collaboration. Our world of consumption and desire for more never ceases nor satisfies, and it is hurting our planet. Our air is polluted, sea-levels are rising, and our landfills are overflowing. We know it is bad, and “try” to be more sustainable, but find it difficult to when very little is truly sustainable. While there is a need to design human behavioural interventions to tackle the crux of our overconsumption problem, there is urgency to also create and design for circularity.

My design practice aims to make that impact through investigating emerging materials, waste by-products and circular systems within our world of consumption in hopes of instilling more kindness in our planet while satisfying consumer demands.


UV Fluorescent Dyes and Inks made from Organic Waste Materials

Lumeco cover image
Fluorescence explanation
Fluorescence occurs when electrons relax from a higher energy state to its ground state. It can occur in both visible light and UV light. My project focuses on the UV light spectrum only.
Industry Applications
Currently, the applications of UV fluorescence fall under a wide spectrum from quality checks during manufacturing all the way to raves and nightlife where consumers actually interact with fluorescence as body art or decor.
Toxicity of Current Fluorophores
However, the process of making fluorescence is quite chemically intensive, it’s highly ecotoxic and is harmful to humans as well.
Types of Fluorophores
The only type of fluorophores that can be harnessed without intense chemicals are biological ones and carbon dots. My project utilises the sustainable processes from synthesising carbon dots to harness fluorophores, as the method allows for synthesis of any organic biomasses. The harnessing method using microwave irradiation is simple, accessible and chemical-free.
fluorophores I experimented with
As I wanted to explore by-product waste and various organic materials, I experimented with 6 precursors. These were chosen as some were high in nitrogen content, some were carbon heavy, meaning that the many carboxyl groups would be good for synthesis, and some were accessible waste materials.
fluorophores under UV light
To achieve the fluorescence under UV light, I experimented with different ratios and concentrations as well as pH levels.
Graph of Characterisation
With the help at a carbon dots lab at Imperial College, I was able to characterise some of the samples to understand more of its peak absorbance of light wavelengths as well as its peak photoluminescence emission intensities.
graph characterization
Fluorophore Liquid under UV Light

Using Lumeco in the Entertainment Industry

The focus use case of Lumeco is where consumers interact with UV fluorescence the most and provide an alternative as this is where I could impact both the industry and protect consumers from the toxicity the most. 

Entertainment fluorescence
The entertainment and events industry is where consumers usually dress up with neon outfits or wear body art like glow paints and temporary tattoos, this sector would benefit from more sustainable alternatives as it also causes significant waste as an industry on the whole. (photo credit: Chris F)
Neon Waterways
The dyes used in neon outfits require more intense manufacturing processes as it uses more labour, more toxic chemicals, special washing cycles and more synthetic materials like polyester. (photo credit: AP)
Tattoo image
The fluorescent inks used in temporary tattoos are also intensely produced with various chemical reactions which can be toxic on human skin. With the inks directly touching the skin, a sustainable nontoxic alternative is surely safer. (photo credit: AP)
Screen print vs. Dye Vat
To fix Lumeco fluorophores onto textile fibres permanently, over 30 experiments were carried out via screen printing with a binder and through vat dyeing. Various combinations of natural binders, fibres and fluorophores (e.g. sugar, chitosan, citric) were tested to see what would work. Both methods showed success.
Gif of textiles in UV light
Images show the Textile Fabrics under UV and Visible Light
Image shows Textile Fabrics under UV and Visible Light
image of textile example
textile gif
As a form of body art at festivals and events, temporary tattoos are extremely popular, check out this video to see how it’s made. Tattoos are often conversation starters at festivals and events. So with specific tattoo designs, Lumeco tats can be used to kick conversations going about the lesser known toxicity of fluorescent as well as a walking advertisement of the brand.
Prototyping Process of Hand print and Ink jet Printing
Prototyping process from hand printed tattoos into inkjet printed tattoos
Comparison of tattoo Sheet in UV Light vs. Visible Light
Tattoo Sheet Comparison in UV Light and Visible Light
Comparison Chart of Fluorescent Tattoos
Comparison Chart between conventional fluorescent temporary tattoos and Lumeco Temporary Tattoos.
Manufacturing Comparison
Manufacturing Comparison between conventional method and Lumeco's. Most of the emphasis of the simplification and resource savings is in the ink derivation. With fewer material components, Lumeco's process can also reduce materials needed.

This project could not have been done without the following experts:

Special thanks to Eloise O’Brian Scott and Eleanor Thompson from the Royal College of Art, and Dr. Richard Lobo, Dr. Chandra George, Dr. Hui Luo and Piotr Toka from Imperial College London.