The whole package: thermochromatic paints and smart food packaging


This activity is truly cross curricular and can be used to bring together different topics, subjects and departments.

Students will discover the properties of thermochromatic paints and imagine how they can be used.   The activity looks at desgning and manufacturing 'smart packaging' which uses thermochromatic pigments to show the product is at the right temperature.

This session should fill a STEM club time slot as a one off project, or it can be used as part of a short term project if extras are followed.


What you'll need

  • Paint brushes
  • Paint pots
  • Thermochromic pigments (these can be purchased from product codes IT9-007-FAM)
  • Acrylic base (any white or light coloured paint)
  • Paper
  • Paper cup (for hot liquids)
  • Thermometer
  • Hot water

What to do

Students should mix their paints using a small amount of the pigment mixed into the acrylic base and should think about how they might investigate the way the pigment changes with temperature.  They could do this by painting a paper cup with the paint and fill it with warm water.  The resource contains a task to set students to think about which food or drink packaging could be suitable to this type of smart packaging, they will then design and manufacture packaging suitable for a food product that would spoil if kept too warm for too long.

The resource contains lots of questions to ask of students when they are doing this activity as well as extension activities, explanations and handy hints for those delivering the activity as well as a case study of a mechanical engineer.

Engineering is ...

... thinking about how we can be creative and apply the properties of thermochromatic paints to packaging and ways of manufacturing them is a great illustration of how engineering affects us without many of us even realising it.

Engineers have a huge input with respect to our food, and manufacturing engineers in this and other industries are essential. Manufacturing engineering can be taken at many universities, with entry requirements including A levels, Advanced Diplomas and Scottish Advanced Highers (

Related fields: Materials science and agricultural engineering.