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article imageUBC researchers create new method to make self-tinting windows

By Karen Graham     Mar 12, 2018 in Technology
University of British Columbia chemistry researchers have developed a simple, cost-effective technique for making smart windows that could lead the way for wide-scale adoption of this energy-saving technology.
Smart windows are a marvel of technology, creating climate adaptive building shells, with the ability to save costs for heating, air-conditioning, and lighting. Generally, the "smart" glass switches from clear to tinted when light transmission properties are altered when voltage, light or heat is applied.
However, there are some critical aspects of smart windows that need to be taken into account, including material costs, installation costs, electricity costs, and durability. Then, there are functionality features, such as the speed of control, the degree of dimming and the degree of transparency they provide.
"Conventional windows waste a third of all energy used to heat, ventilate and air condition buildings," said Curtis Berlinguette, a professor of chemistry, chemical & biological engineering and the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute at UBC, according to EurekAlert.
"Smart window technologies offer the opportunity to reduce these energy losses but the main challenge is finding ways to make these windows less expensive." And UBC came through with an answer.
The Shanghai Tower s double-layered glass skin improves insulation and allows plenty of natural ligh...
The Shanghai Tower's double-layered glass skin improves insulation and allows plenty of natural light to permeate inside.
CTBUH/Gensler
Doing his post-doctoral work at UBC, Wei Cheng, led the project, building on a technique co-developed in Berlinguette's lab, came up with a new way to make glass materials that change color in response to electricity without the use of high temperatures or the sophisticated vacuum equipment currently used to make such devices, thereby reducing the cost.
The paper, "Photodeposited Amorphous Oxide Films for Electrochromic Windows," describes Cheng's technique and was published in the journal Chem.
The research focused on electrochromic windows. These windows change their light transmission properties in response to voltage, allowing control over the amount of light and heat passing through. Basically, the electrochromic material changes its opacity - it changes between a transparent and a tinted state. A burst of electricity is required for changing its opacity, but once the change has been affected, no electricity is needed for maintaining the particular shade which has been reached.
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Cheng's method deposits a liquid solution containing a metal ion onto glass and then uses ultraviolet light to transform it into a film that coats the glass. The film is completely transparent but becomes blue when electricity passes through, ultimately creating the active component of a smart window.
Smart windows currently run between $500 to $1,000-per-square-meter to manufacture, while regular glass windows cost between $30 to $ 200-per-square-meter. With the new method, the cost of making smart windows will be greatly reduced.
"Our technique creates a uniform dynamic coating without the need for special instrumentation," said Cheng, reports Science Daily. "Another advantage of our method is that it is compatible with many different metals and it is scalable. We are excited to potentially fine-tune the dynamic properties of the materials to improve performance even further and make large windows for commercial use."
Berlinguette and Cheng are continuing their work, creating larger windows as they refine the technique, including experimenting with more neutral tints. “A commercial window needs to last many years, and we need to prove our windows can do the same,” said Cheng.
More about smart windows, selftinting, electrochromic, metal oxides, photodeposition
 
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