Technological advances in glass are moving at an incredible pace. Perhaps faster than in any other part of the wider fenestration market. And that innovation continues with a product developed across the pond at Harvard University.
Researchers there claim to have developed a new type of glass unit, inclusive of silver sprayed nanowires, which allow for rapid changing of opacity in the glass. This is being reported by www.gizmag.com.
Silver and nano-tech
Here’s how the researchers at Harvard have come up with the technology, as reported by Gizmag:
Generally speaking, smart windows rely on electrochemical reactions in order to change transparency. This can make for an expensive manufacturing process, along with the use of sometimes-toxic substances.
The Harvard technology is different. It incorporates a sheet of regular glass or plastic, sandwiched between two clear elastomer layers that have been sprayed with silver nanowires. Those wires are small enough that they don’t affect light transmission on their own.
However, when an electrical current is applied (simply by flicking a switch), the nanowires on either side of the glass are drawn towards one another. This causes them to compress the elastomer layers, distorting them in the process. As a result, the window goes from being completely clear to taking on a cloudy frosted-glass appearance.
The whole process takes less than a second. Additionally, it’s possible to tweak how opaque the window gets, simply by varying the amount of voltage applied.
Electronically controlled and tunable glazing is not a new technology as such. Variants of it have been around for a while now. Sage Glass is currently the leading company on this, with the US based company succeeding in bringing switchable glass to the commercial market and now entering the residential market – if but a little slowly.
And as with all technologies, there will always be researchers and companies looking to streamline the existing technology further, and make it more cost effective. This is why this story perked my interest.
Now, according to Harvard themselves, via a press release of their own on this subject, they are looking at ways to scale this technology down even further so that it becomes more compatible with regular electronic supplies. In other words, so they can make it work from a normal plug socket.
If they can crack that, and make the whole set up look good and aesthetically pleasing, then they could be on to a winner. “Watch this space” I think with this one.