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08 Nov 2016

Will the self-shading window become the future of energy efficiency?

Supplier: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

More Massachusetts Institute of Technology details
A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a “smart self-shading window” that can switch from transparent to opaque in seconds.

The window’s rapid transition from clear to dark – which unlike similar systems has been designed to require almost no energy – can block sunlight and save air conditioning costs in buildings which use the technology.

According to MIT the window only needs electricity when it's required to return to its previous state, rather than all the time like other self-shading materials.

The switchable material used in the window is made by combining two chemical compounds, an organic material and a metal salt, which self-assemble into a thin film. The result is an electrochromic material that changes colour and transparency in response to an applied voltage; conducting both electrons and ions at very high speeds.

According to the researchers, the window has a much faster response time than the photochromic materials used in eyeglasses – which become darker when the light gets brighter – or older electrochromic products such as the glare-resistant windows used in Boeing 787 aircraft.

In previous research, the MIT team could only manage to transform clear material into a shade of dark blue or green. This time they have combined other colours to create a optimal shade of near-black.

“The new windows have the potential to do much more than just preventing glare,” said MIT professor of chemistry Mircea Dinca. "These could lead to pretty significant energy savings by drastically reducing the need for air conditioning in buildings with many windows in hot climates. You could just flip a switch when the sun shines through the window, and turn it dark, or even automatically make that whole side of the building go dark all at once.”

The properties of the material have been demonstrated in a laboratory setting and the developers are now creating a 1-inch-square sample to demonstrate the principle in action for potential investors in the technology and to demonstrate manufacturing costs.

The smart window is the latest in a series of recent technological advancements that could have a big impact on the architecture, design and construction industries.

Scientists at the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute have used biomimicry to create “smart graphene wallpaper” that generates electricity from waste light or heat, while electrical engineer Surrey NanoSystems has developed Vantablack S-VIS – a new spray version of the world's blackest material which traps 99.8 per cent of light.

Supplier: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge MA USA
The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century — whether the focus is cancer, energy, economics or literature.

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