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Shining a light into the 'black hole'

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 19 September, 2003  (Company News)
It's truly ironic that while the (mostly) male engineers of this world have managed to turn night into day in our big cities, an archaic darkness still prevails in women's handbags, swallowing lipsticks, compacts, mobile telephones and keys.
But now there's light in the 'black hole': German-based international leather and bag specialist BREE has created the first illuminated business handbag with 'Smart Surface Technology'. The unique prototype will be debuted at the international 'Summerstyles' leatherwear trade show to be held in Offenbach, Germany, from September 27 to 30, 2003.

Second-generation company presidents Philipp (31) and Axel (35) Bree put their trust in innovative solutions. 'We had been toying with the idea of illuminating the dark insides of handbags for quite some time, but lacked an elegant solution which not only met our traditionally high demands with regard to style and function, but was also technically feasible.'

The very solution they were looking for is now available in the form of 'Smart Surface Technology' developed by Bayer MaterialScience, one of the world's largest plastics manufacturers, in partnership with the Swiss firm Lumitec, a specialist in electroluminescence (EL) and precision electronic components.

Scientists use the term EL to refer to a method of generating light that fireflies have been masters of all along albeit by chemical means. In contrast to fireflies, engineers use a film that lights up on application of a voltage to achieve EL light generation. Electroluminescence is literally a 'cool' concept, because it does not produce heat. The hitch: only flat surfaces of limited size could be achieved in the past. But Smart Surface Technology now makes it possible for the films to be shaped as needed and thus to illuminate any conceivable geometry.

Eckard Foltin, head of the Creative Center at Bayer MaterialScience, says the main field of application for this quantum leap in technology is in the automotive industry: 'Incandescent lamps in cars will soon be a thing of the past. Instrument panels will be designed to take up less room. The headliner on the interior of a car will glow in a soft, glare-free light and provide a pleasant atmosphere in the passenger compartment.'

But Foltin wouldn't be head of the Creative Center if he didn't look beyond the hood of man's favorite toy, and so he eventually resolved to conduct a survey among his female colleagues which, though not representative, got results that were all the more unequivocal: we should fulfill women's demands for a handbag with interior light.

BREE was soon identified as a partner with the same goal. Intense development work led to the creation of a prototype business bag with modest, attractive light. Currently, it is being guarded like the crown jewels of England, and for good reason: the seven by sixteen centimeter lighting element Lumitec's masterpiece is one of a kind in the entire world! Perfectly incorporated in a non-conductive layer, the film embossed with the BREE logo lights up at the press of a button, immersing as many as two compartments in a magical glow.

Speaking of magic, BREE even sees a realistic chance of getting these innovative bags into stores by the coming year and thus staying one step ahead of the competition as well. Because Axel and Philipp Bree are convinced of one thing: 'In less than five years, interior light will be just as common in handbags as mobile telephones are today.'
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