The Universal Smart Window Project, heavily funded by the Department of Energy, has yet again amazed everyone with a striking innovation produced as a result of the hard work of researchers from Lawrence Barkley National Laboratory.
The team developed a new window coating material made of nanocrystals, which boosts energy efficiency by modifying and controlling the incoming visible and infrared light through the windows.
The new material can adjust the intensity of incoming light in virtually any climate and according to the wishes of the room occupant, while minimizing the need of additional air-conditioning, heating and artificial lighting.
The research team, which came up with the discovery, published their findings in Nature last week and are already busy with commercializing the technology.
Let’s hope they do it fast, because the material can be a real value for money. Previously developed smart window technology by the same team is based on the so-called electrochromic effect, or the ability to switch itself between Near Infrared-transmitting and Near Infrared-blocking states. This time, they not only use this, but they add the visible light to the equation and provide an independent control over both.
So what does this mean for the average user? Well, coating our windows with the material allows us to have natural light without the increase in temperature that comes with it. In this way, we will not only save on air-conditioning, but we will also remove the need of artificial lighting. In addition to this, the independent control allows us to completely darken this same window and block all incoming light and heat, or simply switch to a full transparent mode, which will let it all in.
All of this is achieved thanks to the nanocrystals made of indium tin oxide, which are embedded in a glassy matrix of niobum oxide. By combining these materials, the scientists also combined their functionalities and allowed control over both the visible and near-infrared light. The glassy matrix and the nanocrystals interact in a specific region, opening up space within the the glass and allowing charge to move freely. This results in a high potency of the electrochromic effect and does not compromise the performance of the technology even when a very thin layer of coating is applied.
This is really a great breakthrough and there is no wonder that the team is very proud of their achievement. They were able to not only create a new material but also understand its function to a great extend, allowing them to take current technology to incredible new heights.