What is Smart Glass
Special high-tech glass is used in smart windows that can quickly go from clear to tinted. It can block glare, light, or heat. Smart glass is also referred to as switchable or dynamic glass. Smart glass will eventually function as a computer screen. It will be operated by touching a button. The feature is probably a decade or more away.
The current feature of smart glass that is intriguing is the ability to replace curtains, blinds, and shades. The anticipated cost is double that of conventional glass, but it can reduce cooling and heating costs. Theoretically, the added expense can be recouped.
The Institute for the Science of Materials in Spain and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California are conducting research on smart glass. A special formula, containing tin oxide nanocrystals, is being embedded into smart glass. A ceramic coating darkens with the application of low-voltage electricity. As the coating darkens, heat and light are reduced.
The research being conducted is complicated. The hope is to make smart glass less expensive. The goal is $100 per square foot. Smart glass can be made at temperatures that are relatively low which will reduce the cost.
Smart Glass Benefits
Light and heat are blocked independently of each other. The sunshine is allowed in without the heat. By turning a dial, a small amount of electricity is applied that absorbs infrared light which reduces the heat from sunlight coming through the glass. Another dial causes the glass to darken. Light and heat are adjusted up or down to suit one’s preferences.
Smart glass is used most often for curtain walls, skylights, and windows. The smart glass has been used mostly in commercial buildings to this point. Smart glass is being developed worldwide. It will eventually be available globally. Companies claim architects use fewer sun-control devices which allow for an increased amount of glass that buildings can have.
Changes occur automatically as the light comes through a window. Technology has also been developed that makes smart windows controllable from a smart-phone app or a wall switch. Smart-glass technology has been proven to reduce cooling and heating costs. It also improves the option of using curtains, blinds, and shades to control heat and light by changes within the glass.
Designers take advantage of the adjustable qualities for developing the perfect look for their builders. Throughout the day adjustments are controlled for the maximum energy savings. Everyone’s comfort is addressed automatically. Manual overrides enhance the window performance in conference rooms and offices. Classrooms can be made more conducive to learning by adding comfort to the room. A room with a beautiful view that also serves as a multimedia room will have a washed-out daytime picture if there is no control of the sunlight and reflections. The flip of a switch can correct the problem.
Technology Available Now
Architects around the globe want designs that are both beautiful and practical. Being ‘green’ is on the practical side of the building climate of today. The most thermal energy of a building is lost through windows. Previous high-tech solutions were automated windows, tinted windows, double glazed windows, and window film that limited energy loss and add energy absorption by harnessing the sun’s power.
A solution would be a totally automatic window that adjusts for the weather conditions encountered.
When temperatures are warm, windows darken and reflect light from the windows. In cold weather, windows get lighter and let light in which allows the windows to absorb heat. No external controls or electricity would be necessary.
The RavenBrick Company patented a thermochomic filter technology. It creates a material that is temperature-based and changes optical properties. The threshold of temperature can be set to any point that the builder owner or architect chooses. A thermochromic filter is sandwiched in the window glass when it is manufactured. The ingenuous use of nanotechnology makes a specified temperature point reaction possible.
The View Dynamic approach allows automatic control of heat gain and loss. The tint can also be controlled. A wall panel allows the control of all functions. They can also be controlled through the internet or a mobile device app. Also, the system has sensors that automatically react to various conditions of light. The interior is kept cool, and heat is conserved without a remote or manual adjustment.
A View Dynamic Glass system increases a building’s greenness literally and figuratively. The knowledge of semiconductor, thin-film flat, and solar panel display is combined with the process of glass manufacturing. The result is a green and very versatile design product.
Another company developing smart-window technology is Sage. The SageGlass product has five layers. Nanotechnology is used to deposit separate thin film ceramic coatings on the layers. Many variable tints can be controlled. That control is ideal for educational applications.
Dark is good in some design applications. Often the need of totally opaque glass is needed. An instant sunglass effect, much like turning a light off and on is sometimes desired. Research Frontier has smart windows that offer a light depth variety. They achieve an electrically controlled glass pane with SPD-Smart Technology.
The placement of smart windows is not limited to the outdoors. SPD-Smart Technology windows create interior partitions. SPD-Smart Technology windows are clear only when electric powered. A power failure, when privacy is expected, could be embarrassing if electricity concealed what was behind the windows.
Places Using Smart Windows
Sage takes advantage of its own product. The company headquarters are designed with lots of windows. Depending on the sun’s position, sections of windows can be tinted to reduce glare without sacrificing available natural light. When projector presentations are made, all sections are darkened.
Chabot College in Hayward, CA chose SageGlass for multifunctional rooms where the function changes many times each day. The product has been used in other schools as well. The St. Joseph Athenaeum protects its priceless art treasures from sunlight damage while providing comfortable, natural light for visitors. SageGlass replaced the original old skylight glass. The heating control problems of the 150-foot tall curved roof of glass, at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, were solved with SageGlass. It is used throughout the center that spans a city block.
Hospitals and medical centers benefit from sunlight control of their interiors. The Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, CA has five smart windows in an OR. SageGlass was used in the design of the Immanuel Bible Church meeting and overflow center.