Tunable Window Coating in Development

10/01/2013 |

Coming soon: windows that dynamically control incoming light and heat

Tunable windows utilize a thin layer of nanocrystals embedded in glass that dynamically modify sunlight with the help of a small electrical current.

A new material for smart windows may soon offer building owners the ability to control both light and heat coming through windows, allowing them to maximize energy savings and comfort no matter the weather.

A thin layer of nanocrystals embedded in glass dynamically modifies sunlight as it passes through the window, according to the research team. A small electrical current switches the material between transmitting light and blocking it. The new material builds on a previous prototype by the team that allowed control over near-infrared light that produces heat, but not visible light.

Being able to control near-infrared light allows natural lighting without unwanted thermal gain, so the benefits of daylighting can be fully utilized. The window can also switch to a dark mode where it blocks light and heat or to a fully transparent mode.

“We’re very excited about the combination of unique optical function with this low-cost and environmentally friendly processing technique,” says Anna Llordes, a co-author of the study, which was recently published in the journal Nature. “That’s what turns this universal smart window concept into a promising, competitive technology.”

The research team says it’s in the early stages of commercializing the new window material.

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