The same material that makes iphone screens touch sensitive could lead to more efficient windows in our homes and buildings. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed nanocrystal-studded glass that can filter out visible and heat-producing light thus allowing tighter control over how much light and heat can enter a building.
The “smart windows” are coated in a thin layer of crystals made from indium tin oxide, which is a transparent semiconductor commonly used on plasma, e-ink and touch-sensitive screens. The crystals are embedded in a glassy substance. This results in a totally new material that can absorb up to 50 percent of the heat and 70 percent of the visible light that passes through it. The window would appear darker the more light it is set to filter out, similar to reactalight glasses. Research lead Delia Milliron said in a release; “In the U.S., we spend about a quarter of our total energy on lighting, heating and cooling our buildings…The most exciting part has been taking this project all the way from synthesizing a new material, to understanding it in great detail, and finally to realizing a completely new functionality that can have a big impact on technology.”
Nature reports that Milliron is currently commercializing the technology via an Oakland, California based startup called Heliotrope. The crystals can filter different amounts of light with an on/off switch, but to allow this to happen, first an additional film that carries voltage needs to be applied to the unit. University of Texas-Austin materials chemist Brian Korgel told Nature the entire system might be too expensive for adoption. Currently the existing smart windows generally work by blocking visible, but not heat-producing, light. Recently we reported that Harvard researchers have created a system whereby they could cool windows with silicon sheets packed with channels of water, known as a bioinspired microfluidic circulatory system, which basically works by allowing water to flow through the channels, it then pulls away heat, keeping it from travelling inside.
The fields of green technology are increasing and the more we use this kind of technology to help the planet, the better off all of us will be.
[Image via NPR]